One of the most fundamental skills that enables a blind person to cross streets safely is aligning for the crossing by using the sound of parallel traffic. This skill makes the difference between crossing safely versus veering into the parallel or perpendicular street where traffic may be oncoming. Part of the difficulty in practicing this skill is the lack of feedback – when a blind person is attempting to align for the crossing, how can he or she know whether he or she is doing it accurately or by how much he or she is off the mark?
Technology, specifically a remote controlled sound source, can provide a solution to this problem of lack of feedback. I use the A.P.H. Sound Source – Sports Edition (Catalog Number: 1-03045-00). I place the sound source across the street at the opposite end of the crosswalk from my student, initially having the sound off. Standing at the corner, my student listens to the parallel traffic as it passes them and travels far into the distance. When my student has heard several cars go by, I will ask them to point where they intend to cross based on what they’ve heard. As an aside, I have the student point with their whole arm with their hand in a fist, because I have noticed that many times, a student’s arm will be pointing in one direction while their index finger points in a somewhat different direction. After pointing, I have the student keep their arm in the air for a moment. Next, I turn on the sound source using the remote control. The student then compares where they pointed to where they hear the sound source, which provides the feedback they need to refine the skill of aligning based on parallel traffic.
Sometimes, I will help the student practice aligning by using the sound source in the reverse order. That is, at a relatively quiet intersection, I will use the remote control to activate the sound at the opposite corner first and have the student orient to the sound. Then, when parallel traffic streams by, they can hear what it should sound like when they are already properly aligned for the crossing.
By Aaron Rouby