By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Leila de Lima on Tuesday pushed for the passage of a measure requiring all traffic signal poles to be equipped with Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) to ensure road safety for pedestrians, particularly among the blind and visually-impaired people.
De Lima, chair of the Senate committee on social justice, welfare and rural development, has filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1861 which seeks to provide audible crossing information to all pedestrians and enable them to travel with confidence.
“With over two million Filipinos who are blind or suffering from poor vision, the installation of APS in most, and ideally in all, traffic signal posts shall aid them in being independently mobile and ensure a safe journey for everyone,” De Lima said.
The senator pointed out that under Batas Pambansa Blg. 344 or the Accessibility Law the installation of architectural facilities or structural features to enhance the mobility of disabled persons in certain buildings, institutions, establishments, and public utilities is strongly required.
But despite the installation of structural features designed to ensure the self-reliance of the blind and visually-impaired people in public, she noted they still have to rely on the sound or sense of traffic when on the road to before stopping or crossing the street.
“In an ideal world, people who are blind or visually-impaired would be able to rely on traffic lights at every intersection they cross. That is not the world we live in today,” the senator lamented.
“Although traffic sounds and vibrations can help a pedestrian safely cross a street, there are many intersections where this type of information is insufficient to assure a pedestrian who is blind or visually impaired a safe journey,” she said.
The bill, to be known as “Accessible Pedestrian Signal Act of 2018,” requires that all new traffic signal poles that have yet to be installed be equipped with an APS.
On the other hand, installation of APS on existing traffic signal poles will depend in order of priority set by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
The lawmaker explained that APS, which will be attached to traffic signal poles, shall communicate information about the “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” intervals at signalized intersections in non-visual formats.
“When an APS uses audible tones, it shall have a specific tone for the walk and interval clearance phases utilizing internationally recognized standards,” she said.
The bill also proposes that one distinct sound for the North/South crossing and another distinct sound for the East/West crossing shall be used for the “Walk” phase.
The measure also proposed that a distinct sound for the North/South clearance phase be used and another distinct sound for the East/West clearance phase, noting that the tones shall at least be two decibels and no more five decibels greater than the ambient noise level.