Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a measure requiring all traffic signal poles to be equipped with Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) to ensure road safety for pedestrians, especially among the blind and visually-impaired people.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, 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,” she said.
Batas Pambansa Blg. 344 or the Accessibility Law required the installation of architectural facilities or structural features to enhance the mobility of disabled persons in certain buildings, institutions, establishments, and public utilities.
Yet despite the installation of structural features designed to ensure the self-reliance of the blind and visually-impaired people in public, De Lima noted they still have to rely on the sound or sense of traffic when on the road to identify if the traffic has already stopped and that crossing the street is possible.
“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,” she said.
“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 added.
Under her proposed measure, to be known as “Accessible Pedestrian Signal Act of 2018,” all new traffic signal poles that have yet to be installed shall be equipped with an APS, as with the existing traffic signal poles, whose installation of APS would vary in order of priority set by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
De Lima explained that APS, which is affixed 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 Senator from Bicol further proposed 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.
She added there should also be a distinct sound for the North/South clearance phase 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.
De Lima earlier filed SB No. 1622 prescribing guaranteed parking spaces for handicapped persons in public places and Senate Resolution No. 534 urging the Senate to look into how local government units have complied in ensuring a “barrier-free” environment for persons with disabilities.