Look and Listen

Traffic rushes past me as I stand at the truncated dome, ready to cross the road with the start of the next light cycle. No pedestrians stand with me, so there are no clues to go on other than the changing lights that I can make out today and the sound of the traffic.

I focus and wait. I hear cars breaking, and I see the cars stopping at the intersection. Only a moment before I will step off the curb. I stand with my white cane ready. After the light turns green, I will have three seconds until turning cars will enter my lane. I can’t dawdle on the curb.

The white WALK sign appears. I hear the driver of the car in the opposite left turning lane hit the gas. I flick my wrist to move my cane and step into the street in one fluid motion, like an athlete out of the blocks at the sound of the starter’s gun. As I move, I turn my head in the direction of the car and continue to sweep my cane, hoping the person will see me in the crosswalk.

The driver notices me, hesitating until I pass the yellow line. The sedan passes behind me. I feel the air from the moving vehicle brush against my back which always encourages me to seek the safety of the opposite sidewalk. Walking the last half of the crosswalk, I turn my head toward the drivers of the stopped vehicles, focused to listen for a car to drift and turn right on red.

Crossing a street involves making decisions while minimizing risk. I look with my remaining vision, but I rely more on my ears to tell me what I need to know about where and when traffic moves my way.

How do you manage street crossings?


6 Comments Add yours

  1. I try to cross at designated crossings such as zebra crossings or pelicans which either beep, vibrate or do both as an indication that it is safe to cross. I remember severl years ago, I had enjoyed a few drinks with friends. I was, no doubt a little tipsy. I approached a a pelican crossing approximately 10 minutes from my flat and pressed the button. The crossing started to beep indicating that it was safe to cross. Just then a car shot past making no attempt whatever to stop. Fortunately despite having enjoyed a few drinks I was alert and had made no move to cross. This driver was a menace to both disabled and non-disabled pedestrians alike.

    1. Drewdog: I’m glad that menace didn’t ruin your night out. Inattentive drivers can break more than traffic laws.

  2. A friend who is also vision-impaired was told how brave she was for going on a flying-fox type ride. She laughed and said that crossing the roads each day is more of a brave mission! Couldn’t agree more! xx

    1. Lucent: Great sense of humor. The courage to cross a street, we all carry it.

  3. In the UK there are two mechanical options at traffic lights – beeps or wiggles. The beeps work well when there is only one set of traffic lights. Where beeps would be confusing with more than one set there is a small, protruding knob hidden under the walk/wait box on the traffic light post. It is hidden and you can feel for it and wait for it to wiggle when it is safe to cross. Of course, any vandal who knows it is there cannot help but prise it off but usually it works. I have bizarre strategies and can walk a long way to where I know it is safe. Mostly I just ask for help but that can involve waiting until someone comes along. It’s horrible in heavy traffic and I understand your problem. A risky business!

    1. Anew look: Over here, new intersections have audible crossings. Older ones are a mix of buttons which give you a WALK sign and longer amounts of time to cross or nothing. As old intersections are updated, I notice they all get the audible crossings which beep when safe to cross and also say the road name and direction you are moving in.
      I can imagine how vandals like to destroy the buttons. Karma will fix that!
      I route plan and will walk a longer distance to cross at easier intersections, too. What is an extra few minutes walk if it keeps me safer?

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