On April 8, LightHouse, in partnership with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), held a second Tactile Intersections Workshop to promote the citywide campaign Safety—It’s Your Turn. The campaign is designed to encourage safer driving around left turns. Individuals who are blind or have low vision who live or work in San Francisco joined LightHouse Orientation & Mobility (O&M) Specialist Sarah McIntyre and Senior Accessible Media and Braille Specialist Frank Welte for the workshop where they received an overview of interpreting and comprehending tactile diagrams of various intersections found throughout San Francisco.
Upon registering for the workshop, participants were sent a packet of the tactile intersection diagrams (designed and produced in-house by LightHouse’s Media and Accessible Design Lab) to follow along from home with Sarah and Frank as they guided students through understanding what the different tactile traffic lines and symbols on each diagram represented. The two LightHouse employees made a dynamic duo as they offered valuable insights, as Sarah has the many years’ experience teaching O&M and working alongside blind and low vision people, while Frank has the first-hand knowledge and experiences of traveling in cities all over the country as a blind man.
“Understanding how various common types of intersections are configured and how traffic flows through them makes it possible for a blind traveler to cross streets efficiently and safely in a wide variety of situations.” Frank said. “The intersection diagrams produced by the LightHouse make it much easier for Orientation & Mobility students to acquire this important knowledge.”
I had the opportunity to participate in last week’s workshop. As a person who has low vision and as a non-driver, I found the workshop incredibly informative. The geography of San Francisco is unique with its many neighborhoods and busy city streets that spread out across climbing hills and flat shorelines, but while it makes for a beautiful landscape, it also makes for many complicated travel routes, both in car and on foot. Exploring the different types of intersections and gaining an understanding of what all the painted lines along the city streets actually mean helped me form and understand my own mental map of the city and specifically different busy traffic areas within my own neighborhood.
“I’ve used the intersection diagrams in two different ways,” Sarah McIntyre explained. First, with students who started learning intersection analysis and street crossing skills in person, I’ve used the intersection diagrams to reinforce and strengthen what they had begun learning.
“Second, with students who are learning spatial awareness skills and have progressed to the point of examining TMAPs [tactile street maps produced using an automated tool], I’ve used the intersection diagrams to discuss the different types of intersections found along their routes.”
Building confidence, independence and knowledge for those in the blind and low vision community is at the heart of every service LightHouse provides. It is a very empowering experience to partner with local agencies like SFMTA to help increase safety and awareness, not just for San Francisco’s blind and low vision residents and commuters, but for everyone who travels the streets of our beloved San Francisco.
If you missed out on the workshop but are interested in obtaining a copy of the Tactile Intersections Diagrams packet, you can do so by ordering the diagrams from the LightHouse store, Adaptations, by calling (888) 400-8933 or finding LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired under specialized help in the Be My Eyes app. For more information about the fantastic strides the city is making to improve traffic safety visit SFMTA’s Safety—It’s Your Turn page on their website. For any inquiries about Orientation & Mobility lessons and services provided by LightHouse, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Esmerelda Soto at 415-694-7323.