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The missing sound – part two

March 22, 2008

Photo by: fa73

Since I wrote the first post about The missing sound, I have got an e-mail response from Sara Jane Friend McDonald, who is specialist in Orientation & Mobility at the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre. She gives a lot of good and interesting answers to my wonder about how blind people cross the street. I wonder what the thoughts are about using the “bibbing sound” in Denmark – perhaps it is not necessary to use it as much as we do in Denmark.

Me: “I noticed the other day standing at a traffic light next to a blind person that in Montreal (and perhaps in all of Canada) there is no bibbing sound indicating when you can and can’t cross the road (as there is in Denmark).”

MAB: There is in fact what we call “Audible pedestrian signals” installed at many intersections in Montreal as well as many other cities in Canada. They may not be noticeable to the general public as some models require a special activation in order for them to work. There is an audible pedestrian signal located in front of the MAB-Mackay at 7000 rue Sherbrooke o. for example.

Me: “I read on your webpage that blind people use their dog to figure out when they can cross the street. But why do you not use sound to indicate when you can and can’t cross, so you shouldn’t be dependent of a dog?”

MAB: It is often perceived by the general public that it is the dog guide that is in charge that makes the decision as to when to cross the street. That is NOT true. I am not sure how you received that impression from our website. A dog guide is trained to follow verbal commands from their master, avoid obstacles, stop at stairs or curbs and follow sidewalks, etc. A dog guide is a dog first and dogs do not have the intelligence to be able to understand traffic controls, understand an audible pedestrian signal, nor can they plan routes nor know what bus to take.

So what is actually happening when a dog guide user is crossing the street is; the person is listening to the traffic, analyzing the traffic pattern or waiting to hear the audible pedestrian signal. When the person decides it is safe to cross they then give the dog guide the command “forward” to start crossing the street. While crossing the street, the person is continuing to listen to the flow of traffic to make sure they are crossing in a straight line and the dog guide is going where the person wants to go. The person using the dog guide is in 100% control the entire time.

Me: “Is it a political decision not to use sound?”

MAB: For years Orientation & Mobility Specialists from vision rehabilitation centres in Montreal, users from the RAAMM (Regroupement des aveugles et amblyopes du Montréal métropolitain) and Engineers from the city have been working together to install audible pedestrian signals throughout Montreal. Not all intersections require an audible pedestrian signal as people who are blind and visually impaired are able to analyze traffic flow by listening to the cars and know when it is safe to cross the street.

Audible pedestrian signals are also very expensive and require sometimes a complete rewiring of an intersection. They also need to be installed exactly the right way, which can be difficult and time consuming.

It is also important to point out that Quebec is the only Province or Territory in Canada to directly fund vision rehabilitation services to a general population and all age groups, from infants all the way to senior citizens. The number of vision rehabilitation specialists that work in Quebec surpasses by far the numbers in the rest of Canada.

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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.

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An older Dane in Montreal – Audiointerview

March 20, 2008


Photo by: Lilith121

43 years ago a young Danish girl named Kirsten moved to Montreal, she originally planned to stay in the city for a year to learn French and just enjoy life and then go back to Europe, but she fell in love with the city and ended up staying.

Why Montreal and not Copenhagen? How did Montreal appear in the eyes of a foreigner 43 years ago? How has the city changed? And what would a “Montrealish Dane” show Danish visitors?

Listen to the interview!

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A Dane wondering…

March 10, 2008


Photo by: Wallyg

Walking down the street, sitting in the metro and talking with Montrealers, I have found myself wondering. These wonders I will try to create blogposts about in the next couple of weeks, but as I am not able to do all these blogpost right away, I thought it could be interesting to let you see them. Perhaps you have a comment, a new wonder, a better wonder.

  • Why does The Gazette use a format that I have seen any Danish newspaper use?
  • How does blind people cross the road when there is no sound to tell them when it’s okay to go (So far I have only heard the sound at one crossing in Montreal)?
  • Where does the Homeless people on Rue Mont Royal go when it gets cold or wet – how does the social system take care of them compared to the Danish social system?
  • Why do they spend money on heating up the metro that much?
  • What is with the whole cheek kissing-culture – who does it, who doesn’t and do they do it in all of Canada?
  • Does the cars in Montreal have special rust protection to be able to stand covered with snow the most of the time?
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Is it a ”don’t” to talk about Quebec separatism with a minus 40?

March 4, 2008

“Don’t address the topic of Quebec separatism with anyone under 40 the first time you meet them – unless you want to be seen as hopelessly square. Whether you’re speaking to a separatist or a federalist, the subject these days is deemed tired to the extreme and an unforgivable bore on social occasions.” (Page 29, Lonely Planet – Montreal & Quebec City).

This was one of the first things I read about Quebec separatism, and I must say that it didn’t encourage me to look deeper into the topic. I find these national issues (can you call it a national issue?) very interesting, and I am one of those persons who grab the chance and ask Montrealers about their view on the separatism the first time I have the chance.

Actually I did. He is a Québécois Québécois, he explained to me. We had a nice talk about it, and I don’t think he found me extremely and unforgivable boring. Writing this blogpost I asked him, what he thought about the Lonely Planet-statement. His answer made me think about how great a power a book as Lonely Planet can have, if you just blindly believe what it says.

He said: “You shouldn’t listen to that weird travel guide if you are a curious person. For me this subject is never boring. I think nationhood is the status that all nation states must achieve, be it in Kosovo, Tibet, Timor Leste or Québec. It is very important to talk about that issue, since it is our future we are talking about. I think anyone who is bored by that debate is obtuse.”

I wondered if this perhaps would be an obvious answer from a Québécois Québécois, so I also asked an Anglophone. She was amazed and surprised when I told her about the words from Lonely Planet. It was interesting to see her reaction; you would imagine that Montrealers themselves could recognize their city in a book about their city.

In her eyes the topic is might said to be boring, but once you ask Montrealers about it they always have something to say. And they will always be ready to have the discussion.

These two persons are of course not representative of the whole population of Montreal. But their views reminded me not to believe everything I read, but when you are new in a city, a travel guide is sometimes your first lifeline to the city. I just find it problematic, because a book like that is affecting the way newcomers behave in this city. And to me it seems like the topic of Quebec separatism is not “extreme and an unforgivable bore” just yet, no matter what I know that I am going to keep on asking questions about the topic.

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What’s the big deal with that poutine?!

February 28, 2008


Photo by Roboppy


“You should try the Elvis”, “You can’t judge it until you have tried a classic”, “It seems to hit just the right spot when you are either drunk or hung over!” “Go to La Banquise”.

I had my first poutine not too long ago. After a night of dancing and drinking all the well-meaning advice of how I could lose my poutine-virginity in the best and most tasteful way sprang into mind. I went into it open-minded, but I must say that I don’t understand what the fuss is about.

Poutine has a long history, but I guess all Montrealers know that… For all the uninitiated out there I can sum it up to this: French fries with gravy and cheese curds.

Being faced with one of Canada’s, and Quebec’s in particularly, national dishes I must say that I blinked twice when the plate of brown confusion was placed in front of me. I would normally prefer my fries as crispy as possible and the gravy as brown and thick as possible. And the two things not mixed together. The cheese I would not complain about.

So it was a cultural experience for me and my taste buds, when I ate the first soft French frie soaked in light-brown gravy and half melted cheese. But when in Montreal do as the Montrealers, and I must say after haven researched on and written this blogpost I might give poutine a second chance. It actually sounds kind of good.

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If you google Montreal in Danish…

February 6, 2008

A bit nerve racking. My first blogpost, my first point of view about Montreal is about to be born. I hope you like seeing Montreal through my eyes.

When I was younger traveling in France, I met Charles and Valerie from Quebec. I don’t remember where they were from in Quebec, but I remember thinking, “wow those people seem so non-prejudiced, so liberal and so happy about life.” I think you would call it ‘joie de vivre’ in French (that’s what my Lonely Planet – Montreal calls it). I never thought I would be experiencing it. Living in Denmark, Quebec and Montreal were very far away. Read the rest of this entry »