Photo: DOT Press Conference September 2011
PASS Coalition

Pedestrians for Accessible and Safe Streets

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PASS Town Hall Meeting

On November 12, 2013 the PASS Coalition sponsored a town hall meeting held at Lighthouse International. Thanks to PASS Steering Committee member Lester Marks for offering and organizing the space. †The purpose of this community event was to introduce all of us to the new sound possibilities in accessible pedestrian signals and to give an overview of their history, their importance, and future challenges if we want to see these signals more widely installed in New York City and beyond.

The evening began with an opportunity for people to get their hands on an actual APS to better understand the device and what it does. Thanks to Steering Committee member and Orientation and Mobility Specialist from Visions Annalyn Courtney-Barbier for the idea and for making it happen.

Presenters included Chris Pagniani of Traffic Systems Inc., the company responsible for selling APS to the City, and Steering Committee members Lukas Franck of The Seeing Eye and Janet Barlow of Accessible Design for the Blind. We were incredibly fortunate to have these outstanding individuals; they offered a tremendous amount of information, and the discussion that followed was excellent. Whether you were there or not, we invite you to listen to this audio recording of the eveningís proceedings. Feel free to contact PASS if you have any questions.

A Boon for Blind People: Audible Taxi Fare Collection

Former Governor David Paterson pays his cab fare with a credit card, thanks to a new audio program to protect blind people. (New York Post)

(April 18, 2012). We do not question the honesty of the average cab driver. Nevertheless, occasionally problems occur. Formerly a blind person paying a cab fare would be at the driver's mercy not to make an error or an overcharge. That will now change.

City Councilman James Vacca, a faithful advocate for people with disabilities, has led an effort to implement a new fare collection system that gives audible feedback to blind people.

“This issue is personal for me,” Vacca said, referring to his own father’s having been blind.

By the end of May some 1,250 taxicabs will be fitted with the new system. This number will eventually increase to 6,600, covering half the fleet.

Every time the meter clicks, a computerized voice will announce the fare. At the end of the trip, it will speak instructions for paying by credit card. Riders will know exactly how much they are being charged.

Former Governor David Paterson, pictured here riding a taxi, stated: “Iíve had at times felt the fare had to be a whole lot less than what I was being charged but I could never prove it.” Ellen Rubin, a PASS Coalition Steering Committee member who played a crucial role in shaping this project, recounted her own bad experience: “Iíve even been ripped off by someone who thought a 30 percent tip was a good idea, despite what I wanted.”

The new system was designed by Creative Mobile Technologies.

Fermino, Jennifer. “Blind-Trust Cabs: Audio Foils Taxi Thieves.” New York Post, April 18, 2012.

Mayor Signs New Bill Regarding Major Transportation Projects

Dr. Karen Gourgey, Lester Marks, and Councilmember James Vacca join Mayor Bloomberg at the bill signing

(December 14, 2011). New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg today put his signature on important new legislation that will involve the disability community in the planning of major transportation projects. The Mayor stated in his remarks today:

“This bill requires the Department of Transportation to notify the Police and Fire Departments, as well as the Department of Small Business Services and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities prior to implementing a major transportation project, and also notify any local community boards that this contact took place. Coordination between agencies is crucial to our Administration's success, and this legislation will ensure that future Administrations continue to work together in advancing our transportation network.”

Afterwards Mayor Bloomberg thanked PASS for its work on pedestrian safety.

In attendance were Lester Marks, Director of Governmental Affairs at Lighthouse International and PASS Steering Committee member, and Dr. Karen Gourgey, Chairperson of the PASS Coalition. Dr. Gourgey expressed gratitude to the Mayor on his eulogy for Matt Sapolin (see below), telling him that his eloquent remarks “flew through the disability community.” She spoke of the bill signed today as “an important first step,” with the hope of continued cooperation in taking the needs of disabled people into account while working for safety improvements. She mentioned that a signaling change even on one block has a profound effect on the disabled community.

PASS Coalition is pleased to share this news and grateful for the efforts of the City Council and the Mayor in passing this measure, which will help make streets safer for everyone.

PASS Coalition Statement
on the Death of Commissioner Matthew P. Sapolin

Matthew P. Sapolin

(November 30, 2011). The PASS Coalition mourns the death of Matthew P. Sapolin, Commissioner of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities. We extend our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and coworkers. Commissioner Sapolin championed many important issues on behalf of people with disabilities, and has left the city of New York a far better place than it was before. His energy and passion were infectious and resulted in numerous advancements for people with disabilities.

We are grateful for his most recent effort to improve the safety of pedestrians, specifically those who are blind or visually impaired, by leading the city's effort to increase the number of accessible pedestrian signals (APS). In a recent press conference announcing the expansion of accessible pedestrian signals throughout the five boroughs, Commissioner Sapolin vowed he would be with us when the final APS was installed at the last New York City intersection. We are deeply saddened that we will not be able to share that day with Commissioner Sapolin; yet his influence survives, and we commit ourselves to continue working in his honor.

ADDITIONAL NEWS ITEM: PASS Coalition Statement to Speaker Christine Quinn