Thursday, March 19, 2009

Which Subway Stop Am I At?

For those with vision, it is not an issue for them to know which stop they are at when traveling on the bus or subway, but for me it is. If I travel by train there is no problem because the conductor announces each stop. Up until a year ago, blind and visually-impaired persons living in Toronto had to depend on several techniques to tell them where they were when traveling by bus or subway but since then -- thanks to the hard and tireless advocacy of David Lepovsky, a blind lawyer -- this has changed.

David had to lobby for over 10 years in order to get the Toronto Transit Commission to implement a system whereby stops along bus and subway routes would be announced. The TTC spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting against, David but in the end they lost their case and David prevailed. This case should never have gone this far but I guess the TTC was determined to be stubborn. David prevailed against Goliath.

So, how do blind and visually-impaired persons overcome the challenge of knowing which stop is the correct one for them?

They can count the stops as they travel along. On the subway it is easier as the subway always stops at preset locations, but for a bus it is different because the driver does not always stop at the same location. If there is no one standing at a pre-designated bus stop as the bus approaches, the driver often drives by and moves on to the next stop. If this occurs, it is then difficult for a person without vision to know if a stop has been bypassed or not. Before David won his case, some bus drivers used to announce the stops but those without vision could not always depend on the driver to announce the stops.

Within the last few years, there have been some exciting breakthroughs in the form of talking GPS gadgets for blind and visually-impaired persons. However, they are not cheap and most blind and visually-impaired persons are unable to afford them. There are two specific ones that I am personally aware of and these can help a blind person to plot their route and familiarize themselves with their immediate surroundings. Blind and visually-impaired persons can use these devices to make traveling easier and more enjoyable and they can also become more independent as well. You can learn more about these exciting devices by visiting www.humanware.com.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and spread the word that blind and visually-impaired persons can and do travel around on their own.

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