CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago lags far behind other cities when it comes to audio crosswalk signals for the visually impaired.
CBS 2 first addressed the issue last fall. Now, the city is making good on a promise to make it easier for the blind to get around.
The city will start by installing audio signals whenever a new light goes up. In addition, 50 more audio signals will be installed at existing lights around Chicago in the next two years.
But as CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reported Friday, the new installations will still leave Chicago far behind many other cities.
A high-pitched chirp attached to pedestrian signals lets those with visual impairments know it is safe to cross the street. Others have voice signals.
There are less than a dozen of them citywide right now. But city leaders say that is going to change.
“It’s a good beginning… because there are more than 50 unsafe crosswalks in the city,” said Isaac King.
CBS 2 first talked with King, who is visually impaired, in October. At that time, Chicago had only 11 audio signals – representing just 0.5 percent of all crosswalks.
By comparison, San Francisco has 252 audio signals, representing 20 percent of its intersections. Minneapolis has 200, covering 25 percent there.
Chicago is thus left at the bottom of the accessibility pile.
“When it comes to the disabled community, things tend to move at a slightly slower pace,” said Blind Service Association Communications Director Whitney Hill.
But Hill said the announcement of 50 to 100 new audio signals is a sign of progress. King hopes the city puts them in challenging crosswalks such as those near ‘L’ trains and other loud noise sources.
“Funding is awesome. It’s great to have funding,” King said. “But who’s in charge of picking and choosing where they go?”
Those in charge of the project said they want input from stakeholders in the visually impaired community – but exactly whom that will be is not yet clear.