A plan to standardize pedestrian crosswalks in New Canaan with an audible signal for the visually impaired includes a continuous low beep to let people know when they’re approaching an intersection, town officials say.
The beeping itself must be audible to those who need to hear it, though not so loud that it disturbs people living in houses or apartments nearby, members of the Police Commission said at their most recent meeting.
The “locator” beep is different from the percussive sound that a pedestrian signal makes when it’s safe to cross, Public Works Director Tiger Mann told the Commission at its Oct. 19 meeting, held at police headquarters.
Referring to the intersection of South Avenue and Farm Road, Mann said, “Certainly if we were looking at one around the school system, we might want it to be a little bit louder, but then there is a resident right next to it, so we have to be concerned about that.”
The Police Commission undertook an effort to standardize pedestrian crosswalk signals in September, after New Canaan Police Community Impact Officer Nicole Vartuli brought a lack of consistency to the appointed body’s attention after receiving complaints from a blind resident.
The locator beep must run 24/7 “because I don’t know when a blind pedestrian will arrive at the crosswalk,” Mann said.
“I can’t say, ‘You can only be there from 8 to 5,’ to be honest,” he said. “But that beep is very low and really kind of almost disappears into the surrounding sounds.”
Mann added, “I think in the end, one, we are trying to make it accessible to all, which is the goal anyways, and two, in the downtown area given the fact that you have blind residents, they have a right to navigate through the downtown area. I think it’s a good thing to do. We can certainly ask questions about the decibel level, what is the acceptable level, what is the lowest acceptable level, what that might be, and then based upon that what is the range around the individual itself, say it’s 50 feet 75 feet and then it disappears into the background.”
The town is working on its plan with Trumbull-based civil engineering firm Fuss & O’Neill, he said.
Commission Chair Paul Foley, as he had promised, visited an intersection in New Canaan with an existing audible pedestrian signal or “APS” at 60 decibels, at Route 123 and Lakeview Avenue, to get an idea of what it sounded like. However, someone had put duct tape around one of the speakers, and the intersection itself is so loud, that it was hard to get a good idea, he said.
Mann said he’d try to find out from the state why the tape was in place.
“They might have a reason,” he said. “It could be the workers there, that were working in the area and they don’t want to listen to ‘beep beep beep’ all day. I don’t know. I can certainly check with Canaan Parish and see what’s going on.”
Vartulia noted at the meeting that there are several visually impaired students at each of New Canaan’s public schools.
Commissioners said the required volume for a locator signal would vary based on where it is, and asked whether there’s a way to make an adjustment as appropriate. Mann said he would find out.
“I can reach out to Fuss & O’Neill to see what their history is with complaints and range,” he said.
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