In Seattle, “the vast majority of pedestrian signals don’t have audible sounds for people who are blind and low vision,” reports Heidi Groover, relating the story of a North Seattle resident who is forced to rely on the sound of passing traffic to determine when it’s safe to cross the street.
Despite a federal consent decree which requires the installation of more than a thousand curb ramps per year, there’s no legislation requiring the addition of Accessible Pedestrian Signals. “More than three quarters of Seattle’s signals do not have such devices,” says Groover.
At this point, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has a backlog of requests for the installation of accessible signals throughout the city. Even in new intersection construction or alteration projects, replacement of inaccessible signals is not always required, Groover notes. According to Groover, only 22% of pedestrian signals in Seattle are accessible.
One reason for the lack of accessible signals: they’re not cheap. “Although SDOT has not produced a formal study of upgrading signals, at $50,000 each, upgrading all 875 crossings without accessible signals would cost about $44 million,” writes Groover.
Groover reports that SDOT consults with “an advisory group of people with disabilities to prioritize the requests.”