Blind man seeks safer crossing at routes 101, 202
Longtime resident asking state for installation of audible indicator; state official says study would need to be done first
PETERBOROUGH — Although Stephen Yerardi is blind, he tries not to let that slow him down. But the 28-year-old Goyette Drive resident has a problem. If he wants to walk from his home to downtown Peterborough, he can’t safely get across the intersection at routes 101 and 202.
“I get around a lot by walking,” Yerardi said on Friday. “I use a white cane that allows me to get around.”
Yerardi often walks with his parents or a sighted person but not always. He said he likes to have a way to walk to the town library, but he’s intimidated by the major intersection.
“At that corner, I can’t listen for traffic if I want to cross. It’s kind of like putting my life in my hands,” he said.
Yerardi has also discovered that it’s nearly impossible for him to hear hybrid cars, which are becoming more popular.
So he’s asking the N.H. Department of Transportation to install an audible indicator of when it’s safe for a pedestrian to cross the intersection, like the ones he hears in Keene or Concord.
Yerardi has lived in Peterborough since 1986. He works as a subcontractor for the N.H. Department of Education, evaluating accessible information materials and he’ll soon be working on a program where he’ll train blind people to use iPads or iPhones in conjunction with Braille software. That job will occasionally involve some travel to schools around the state, said Yerardi, who is unable to drive and does much of his work from home.
“When I need it, I get transportation from a volunteer driver. I have to depend on parents and volunteers. We need public transportation in our area. That’s another passion of mine.
Yerardi is also a board member of the New Hampshire chapter of the National Federation for the Blind and an active volunteer in the Peterborough Lions Club.
Last week, Yerardi and Jim Orr, a fellow Lion from Peterborough, met with the Peterborough Select Board to request a letter in support of his request,which board members agreed to write.
William Lambert, head of the state Bureau of Traffic, said Friday that it might be difficult to do what Yerardi is requesting.
“It’s not that easy at that set of signals,” he said. “It would probably require replacing a controller and cabinet, which would be fairly expensive. The crosswalks would have to be separated and the signal would stop all traffic. That’s the way we typically do it now. It’s not the most efficient way.”
Lambert said Yerardi is seeking what’s known as an “accessible pedestrian signal” and it’s likely that type of signal could be required everywhere in the future. But for now, they aren’t mandatory.
“We’d have to do an evaluation study,” Lambert said. “It would look to see if there was a population sufficient for such a signal.”
He also mentioned that audible signals have met resistance in some communities because the constant sound disturbs people living or working nearby.
Yerardi said he’ll keep pushing for an audible signal.
“There is technology in the works,” he said. “I’m gathering the letters we need and I’m gong to write my own letter. We’ll see where that goes.”