We moved to Redmond in 2018 and have found the neighborhood to be only partially walkable. None of the traffic signals near my house were accessible.
The Dangerous Crossing
To reach the neighborhood bus stop, you needed to go across a 4-way yield crossing with no lights and very heavy traffic. This was a very dangerous crossing with moms and small children and toddlers often struggling to wave down cars to stop to let them cross.
I filed a complaint with the Redmond city for this and 5 other nearby crossings asking to install accessible traffic signals (ATS).
The City’s Response
The city responded with a convoluted message saying: “As you know, we have requested funding to add Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFB) to the mid-block crosswalk south of NE 68th St and on the north side of NE 65th St. Unfortunately technology does not yet support installing an APS at these locations.”
What this meant was that they were going to install new “inaccessible” signals to these locations.
Responding to the City
I wrote back to them saying that:
- This was unacceptable.
- Installing any new inaccessible traffic signals was a waste of government funding.
- This made an already less accessible even more inaccessible.
- They were wrong about technology not being available for this.
Looping in my Mobility Instructor, Microsoft, and others
- I looped in a mobility instructor from the Lighthouse for the Blind Seattle who very kindly explained all the same things over a teams video call to the city representatives.
- I also looped in the real estate and facilities people from my employer, Microsoft. Microsoft is committed to making its facilities and infrastructure most accessible for everyone and also help fund a lot of Redmond’s infrastructure. The Microsoft real estate people also reinforced the very same points to the representatives.
- I wrote about this to the local politician who was campaigning for city elections at that time – but got no response.
- I also reached out to a local newspaper with the story.
- I was planning to start a social media campaign around this(although wasn’t sure how to do this having never done it before).
The City’s Request for Proof of Ownership
The city representatives were still not convinced and asked me for proof of the fact that I owned a house in the neighborhood because if I was just renting in the area, I could move away shortly and they would have wasted money on accessible infrastructure. Reading between the lines, I think they felt I was an immigrant who was only temporarily living here.
Explaining Accessibility is for Everyone
I explained with barely suppressed emotions that the infrastructure they were building was not just for me, it will be there for 10 or 20 years or maybe more, blind people do not need to live in an area and could be visiting friends or family, and putting in inaccessible signals is just building new barriers for people with disabilities.
The City’s Final Decision
The city representatives still did not believe they will get approval for even 1 of the signals, let alone the 6 I had requested.
It was surprising for me when two months later, the city sent me a mail saying that the Accessible Traffic Signals (ATS) for all 6 crossings had been approved for funding and installation by the city council.
This was completely unexpected for me. The ATS were finally installed this spring.
I do not know what changed but maybe making all of the above efforts did play a role in the final decision. I feel I was able to make this corner of Redmond a little more accessible than before. #ProgressOverPerfection
I am hoping to take this to the next level where we can have legislation making it illegal for cities and towns to install any new inaccessible traffic signals everywhere. I do not know where to begin though.