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New crosswalk system an innovative addition


Jogging through campus during a pretty FGCU sunrise, I came across my friend. Sporting a robotic voice, his loud cry, “Wait,” alerts me to danger. I stop. Catch my breath. Then, the countdown begins until the spectacular finale at “one,” and the machine repeats the cycle as I continue the run.
FGCU Boulevard North has received just another of many modifications at FGCU. The enhancement, an accessible pedestrian signal, or less formally known as a talking crosswalk system, helps visually impaired students, part-time athletes and daily commuters on their way to the main campus.
Emily Heth, a freshman majoring in health science, exercises from time to time after attending her classes. Heth has observed that the University campus lacks sidewalks in many places, which increases her risk of accidents while exercising.
Heth, who approves of the voice, said, “It should stay the normal computer voice because it’s [the words] more understandable.” However, out of the 10 students questioned while walking to classes, not one supported the talking crosswalk’s voice.
Despite the annoying tone of the crosswalk warning system, you can sympathize with the students of adaptive services. As recently as last summer, the north access road lacked lighting. The road was both scary to run and scary to drive during twilight hours.
Collin Llewellyn, an FGCU graduate and former op-ed writer of Eagle News, commented in September of 2010 about the lack of protection for students. Thanks to Llewellyn and others at FGCU, lighting was installed, which has further improved our campus.
This trend to improve physical aspects of our campus continues. Cori Bright-Kerrigan, director of adaptive services at FGCU, led the way for the update to our crosswalk. Because of her current maternity leave, Bright-Kerrigan was not available for comment.
Jim Hahl is the director of the Physical Plant, whose responsibilities relate to maintenance and repairs at FGCU. He described the process of adding the accessible pedestrian signal as, “Pretty simple stuff.”
Hahl said, “They put it together and came up with funding and Lee County installed it. We haven’t had any problems or complaints so far.”
For FGCU’s blind population, the system is a remarkable achievement in convenience and safety. Crosswalks are among the most dangerous places for a visually impaired person to venture.
Yet, the voice must be improved. If we attempt to minimize the annoying inflection of the computer-generated voice, having the voice sport a strong British accent might do the trick. In New York, rather than use a computer-generated voice, a local provided his voice when many of these new machines began to sprout up. Mr. Ferrara, of New York City’s transportation department, provides a local New York accent to the voice warning system at 15 intersections for visually impaired pedestrians.
While I do not promote using a New York accent for the voice warning system at FGCU, the cadence could be livelier than our current tone. A local accent may be appropriate, which would align FGCU Boulevard North with the local customs and population.
As FGCU evolves, so do many things around our community. Keep your eyes open to upcoming developments and continue to express your concerns as past and present scholars have done.

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    Collin LlewellynDec 18, 2013 at 11:32 am