Another capital effort to build barrier-free city
LI MIN/CHINA DAILY
To walk across a road is easy for anyone without any vision impairment.
However, having interviewed more than 100 people with vision impairments, I know how difficult it can be for them to know when the light turns green signaling pedestrians can cross. Sometimes they cannot even recognize which is the right direction for crossing the road ahead.
If you want to experience what it is like for yourself, choose a safe road and try to identify when you can cross with your eyes closed.
That's why the recent move of Beijing municipal transport department together with the disabled people's association, namely to install barrier-free traffic lights at crossroads, is rather praiseworthy. Compared with ordinary ones, they have an additional audio alert that tells pedestrians whether the light to cross is red or green.
The new audio devices are a big improvement over the traditional ones as they distinguish the direction of the lights with different voices. One complaint I got from several blind people I interviewed was the difficulty in distinguishing the right direction in which to walk at crossroads; now that problem should be solved.
According to reports, the traffic lights with the new audio devices will cover 500 crossroads in the capital by the end of the year, which means 500 crossroads will be open for those with visual disabilities.
There are always people asking whether it is worth spending taxpayers' money on improving the lives of those with disabilities. The answer is yes. It is the responsibility of society to make access convenient for those with disabilities. Those questioning such moves should bear in mind that if an accident befalls them they too might be grateful for such assistance.
Friendliness to those with disabilities is a yardstick measuring the civility of society, and Beijing is doing its best in this respect.