Brisbane’s policy of turning off the audible pedestrian crossing signal at traffic lights at night is discrimination against blind people, advocates say.
Imagine being told you shouldn’t go out in the city after 9.30pm.
That’s what happened to Australia’s disability discrimination commissioner on the weekend, and advocates say it’s the reality for blind and vision-impaired people in Brisbane every day.
In Queensland’s capital, the beeping sound at pedestrian crossings that signals it’s safe to cross is turned off at most intersections – including some in the CBD – between 9.30pm and 6.30am.
Sydney-based Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes, who has impaired vision, was shocked when told during a recent visit to Brisbane he might want to re-think his dinner plans.
“Someone told me in conversation that it’s all right to go out to dinner at a certain restaurant but if you’re not back by 9.30pm the audible traffic signals will be turned off so it’ll be tricky for you to walk back,” Mr Innes told AAP.
“I just said, `You’re joking, you’re kidding’ and they said `no, no that’s what happens in Brisbane’.
“Effectively in the CBD for blind people there’s a curfew.”
Mr Innes says he’s never come across the situation in other capital cities, and residents must know there’s an element of noise associated with living in CBDs.
He also noted traffic signals contained sensors that reduced the level of sound at quiet times, such as at night.
However, Brisbane’s deputy mayor says there are 19 intersections in Brisbane’s CBD that operate either all night or until at least 10.30pm.
Adrian Schrinner said the policy meets the needs of pedestrians and some 10,000 inner-city residents.
“Council needs to find the right balance between the needs of residents trying to sleep and those of late-night or early morning pedestrians,” he said in a statement.
It’s a policy that’s been called discriminatory by Vision Australia’s Queensland advocacy adviser Liz Jeffrey.
“This isn’t just an inconvenience, this is actually having someone sitting at home who’d like to walk down the road with their cane or their guide dog, get a bottle of milk or go for a drink and they can’t,” she said.
Vision Australia has been trying to extend audible traffic signals in Brisbane for the past 15 years with no joy.
Ms Jeffrey said it’s sometimes easy for able-bodied people to take mobility for granted.
“But for somebody who’s blind and has low vision those little bleeping signals are the only way of having safety when crossing roads,” she said.