The missing sound

March 20, 2008

Photo by: fa73

Something was missing as I stood waiting to cross a side road at Ave Mont Royal. Normally I wouldn’t notice it, but I was reminded by the blind or visually impaired person who stood waiting next to me. She didn’t say anything to me; she just stood there with her dog waiting for the light to change, as did I (even though that apparently is not custom here in Montreal…).

This was when I noticed what was missing. The sound. That bibbing sound you hear everywhere in Denmark, when you cross a road with traffic lights. How does a blind person in Montreal know when to cross the street? I also got me thinking about how difficult it must be to manoeuver in this city as a blind person during the winter, but that is another story.

I wrote an e-mail to the The Montreal Association for the Blind (MAB) so ask them, why the bibbing sound is not used in the city – if it is a political decision or just custom. But they never answered me. That was then…They answered me almost the time as I posted this blogpost – it resulted in The missing sound – part two

I was though able to solve a little bit of the mystery with this information from the frequently asked section on the MAB’s webpage:

Do guide dogs use traffic lights when crossing streets?
No, the decision is based on teamwork. Guide dogs are trained to stop at every curb to indicate to the visually impaired or blind person that the sidewalk has come to an end. The visually impaired or blind person then listens to the flow of traffic to determine when it is safe to cross and gives the guide dog the “forward” command in a suggestive tone. This lets the guide dog know to assess the situation visually, at which point the guide dog will go forward if it is safe, or disregard the command if the situation is not safe (this is called intelligent disobedience).

I my eyes (or ears) it seems much easier and perhaps more safe the rely on a sound that indicates when the light says, “Go!” But then again it’s hard to say, when you have never tried it.

Later that week I went to eat at O.Noir (the restaurant where you eat in the dark). I asked the visually impaired waiter, what he thought of the “missing sound”. It didn’t seem to be something he wondered a lot about, he said that he had heard the sound in some of the suburbs, but that he was not totally blind, so it wasn’t as important to him, as it would be to a totally blind person.

So now I find myself listening if I can hear the missing sound whenever I cross a new street in this city. Blind or not perhaps I the only one wondering about it.


One comment

  1. Although I do not live there and have little sight I never really listen to such sounds. I mostly or I should say totally rely on my guide as well as traffic flow! Reason for this is that at times equipment fails or malfunctions and that could be dangerous whether your total or legally blind!

    The only thing would be those hybrid cars that are extremely quiet! As one could not hear them coming and therefore may have miscommunication with their guide dog.

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