In March 2011, we attended Dona Sauerburger's street-crossing workshop in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The focus of her day-and-a-half workshop was on crossing streets with no traffic control.
As O&M specialists with young people who mostly live in rural areas, we saw the validity and necessity of teaching the skills needed to cross streets with no traffic control.
We had the additional challenge of getting the information to young people spread across a sparsely-populated geographical region of Canada.
We organized a group workshop for the students to learn general street-crossing skills, and found that:
we can offer more direct time to students when we combine group sessions with individualised lessons.
feedback from students is generally more positive following group sessions.
the effect of peer learning and mentoring is evident as observed during the sessions.
students are keener to go out on individual lessons knowing they'll be better prepared for group sessions.
the students encourage and challenge each other during group sessions.
some students are more willing to apply what they have learned in group settings during individual sessions, perhaps because they understand others are doing this as well.
So we planned a follow-up two-day workshop for the students to learn about uncontrolled crossings, and invited Dona to participate.
This page shows photos and videos of this second workshop -- enjoy!
When the students arrived, they were very excited to see each other again.
After greeting, the students settled down to review what they had learned at the last workshop. Then they learned what "quiet" really means, such as how the sound level of "quiet" can vary between communities and even change during the day, and how that sound level of "quiet" affects people's ability to hear approaching vehicles.
We discussed Situations of Uncertainty, and Situations of Confidence, and how the situation can change from one to the other at the same crossing.
One of them asked what they should do if they're in a Situation of Uncertainty, and was assured that we would work on that.
We then went to a quiet, two-lane street nearby and listened for traffic.
The students raised their hands as soon as they thought they heard something approaching, and noticed how the level of sound around them (such as sounds from cars that had passed them) affected their ability to hear the approaching vehicles (see videos below).
The students gathered to talk about their experience.
They had found that when it was quiet, most of them could hear all the traffic with enough warning, which made the crossing a Situation of Confidence for them, although they could be in a Situation of Uncertainty at that crossing at another time because conditions can change.
However, several students could not hear all the vehicles with enough warning, making it a Situation of Uncertainty for them to cross there at that time.
Again, this could change for them if conditions change, for example if the roads become wet or if they come at a time of day that the sound level of "quiet" is much lower.
Also, it may have been that when they couldn't hear the vehicle with enough warning, it wasn't really quiet, and they just need to learn how quiet it has to be in order for them to be able to hear all the vehicles (this is a skill that will be followed up with the students).
All the students then analyzed the level of risk that the students who were in a Situation of Uncertainty would incur if they crossed, and whether they'd have the right of way.
They considered the factors that could help them determine how likely those students would be surprised by a vehicle if they crossed when quiet, how likely the drivers would stop for them and, if the driver didn't stop, how likely they'd be seriously injured or killed.
They determined that for the students who were in a Situation of Uncertainty:
because there wasn't much traffic and those students could hear most of the vehicles with enough warning and the ones that they didn't hear well enough still gave them a lot of warning, if they started to cross when quiet it was unlikely they'd be surprised by a vehicle.
based on the speed of the vehicles and other factors, if they were surprised by an approaching vehicle it was likely that the driver would stop for them, especially if they carried a white cane.
according to the chart of pedestrian injury related to speed, if they were surprised by a driver who didn't stop, they had one chance in 3 of being seriously injured or killed.
Putting it all together, they figured that it's very unlikely they'd be surprised and get hit by a driver when crossing there but if they did, it is quite possible that they'd be seriously injured or killed. They then considered whether this level of risk would be acceptable.
The students learned that in New Brunswick, they'd have the right of way if they crossed at the corner because it had a sidewalk approaching the street -- according to New Brunswick laws, that means it's an unmarked crosswalk, although most drivers and probably even the police don't know these laws.
When it got too cold to continue, we went back to the conference room to discuss alternatives they could use if the risk for crossing was not acceptable.
The students were excited to try two of the alternatives the next day -- one was getting help from drivers, and the other was the strategy of turning around if they hear something coming (this strategy can be used only if they can hear well enough to know it's clear to cross at least half the street).
That night everyone went to a restaurant and enjoyed sitting around the grill where the chef chopped and cooked, throwing pieces of food into the kids' mouths and posing with them.
After dinner, the kids went swimming and the instructors debriefed and planned for the next day.
Friday May 3, 2013
The next morning, we went to a street that had 4 lanes of traffic all coming from the left, so the students could listen to the vehicles to learn to determine which lanes they are in.
This skill can enable them to figure out how wide streets probably are by listening to the traffic.
They stood at the curb, and as the vehicles approached, Dona said which lane they were in.
When most students thought they could tell the difference, Dona didn't tell them which lane the vehicle was in until after it had passed, allowing the students to guess and hold up their fingers to show which lane they thought each vehicle was in.
The instructors behind them recorded their answers and whether they were accurate.
The video to the left shows the students holding up their fingers to guess which lane the vehicle is in, then Dona calls out the number of the lane.
After a while, Dona asks the instructors how the students are doing and, because a few of them were not yet accurate, Dona starts to tell them the number of the lane each vehicle was in before it arrived so they'd be able to listen to what the vehicles in those lanes sound like.
The second video (right) was taken from across the street -- it shows the students standing at the curb with Dona and Denise standing to their right.
As the vehicles pass by, they raise their fingers to show which lane they think the vehicles are in.
After about 10 minutes of practice, most of the students could determine the lanes accurately.
However one of the students said that all the lanes sound the same.
She uses digital hearing aids, which make it difficult or impossible to localize or determine the distance of sounds because they make quiet sounds louder and loud sounds quieter.
It was suggested that her instructor go with her to the audiologist to explain her need for a setting on her hearing aids which can be used when listening to environmental sounds for safe travel.
After this exercise -- uh-oh! Here it comes again, look out -- another GROUP HUG to celebrate their success! But why not? And hey, the instructors have a group hug too!
Once the students were able to determine which lanes vehicles are in, we went to an unfamiliar street and asked them to listen and figure out how wide the street is.
The instructors debated whether to tell them that there is a wide island in the middle, and decided to let them figure it out -- and they did!
They could hear 3 lanes of traffic coming from the left, nothing in the fourth lane and vehicles coming from the right in the 5th lane, so they correctly determined there was probably an island in the middle and 3 lanes on each side.
The students then had to figure out how much time they needed to cross to the island, and develop an intuitive understanding of that time.
So they gathered in the parking lot behind them, where the instructors had marked out the distance of the crossing.
Each student crossed that distance while an instructor timed it.
The students then practiced getting an "intuitive" understanding of their crossing time.
Finally, the students were ready to listen to the traffic to determine if they could hear all the vehicles with enough warning to be confident that it is clear to cross whenever it's quiet.
However, they misunderstood the task.
They thought they were supposed to figure out if they would have had enough time to cross from the moment that it became quiet.
So the instructors explained that what the students were supposed to do is figure out whether they would have had enough time to cross if they had started to cross JUST BEFORE THEY HEARD A VEHICLE -- in other words, at the last moment that it was still quiet.
After continuing to listen, they noticed that:
if there was any sound around them (ambient sound), such as vehicles that had passed them or were traveling on the other side of the street, they couldn't hear the approaching vehicles with as much warning time;
some of them were "tuned in" to what to listen for, and when it was quiet, those students could hear the approaching vehicles with enough warning;
Other students were not able to hear the approaching vehicles with enough warning, even when it was quiet.
It was decided that at the next workshop, the students would get more practice listening to traffic and learning to "tune in" to the sound of potential approaching vehicles.
Meanwhile, those who couldn't hear the traffic with enough warning were in a Situation of Uncertainty.
We then analyzed the risks of crossing and determined that if those students crossed whenever it was quiet, they were very likely to be surprised by a vehicle they hadn't heard and if that happened, the drivers were unlikely to stop and if that happened, they were very likely to be seriously injured or killed.
That level of risk was not acceptable to any of the students, and they thought of lots of alternatives to consider.
Some of the students laughed and said they'd come back and analyze it at midnight, when the sound level of "quiet" would be lower and that crossing might be a Situation of Confidence.
One of the alternatives was to cross where there is a signal. We observed the traffic and noticed that it seemed to come in groups from both directions (there were a lot of vehicles bunched together, then a long period of quiet, then lots more vehicles together).
This was a sign that they were coming from traffic signals, and the students learned that they can tell if there is a signal nearby by observing that the traffic is clustered.
They can even tell which signal is closer -- the closer they are to the signal, the closer together the vehicles are when they pass.
Another alternative was to ask for assistance from passersby, people at bus stops or in stores or neighbors, or even drivers passing by.
The students had been asking all day about finding out whether the drivers would get out of their cars to help them cross. After lunch, as you can hear in the video to the left, they were VERY excited that we were finally going to try it!
Each student got to try it, and we ALL learned a LOT from that experience! Below is a description of what happened, with links to the video of each crossing:
The first one who tried it was holding the sign facing forward, so the drivers couldn't see it unless they happened to turn and look at him just as they were passing in front of him.
About a half dozen pedestrians walked by without helping but luckily, after just a few minutes, a driver who was on the intersecting street facing him came running to help.
But even though the student said he wanted to cross Queen Street, the helper guided him across the other street and left him next to the railroad tracks!
So we discussed how to hold the sign to be more visible, and how to make sure the helper is guiding you across the right street, such as
noticing which way you're going (the students wondered whether it would be rude to correct the helper, and decided it would be fine if they did it politely).
when the person comes to help, pointing to the street you want to cross while you explain what you need.
The second one held the sign so the drivers could see it while approaching from her side, and when the helper came, she pointed across the street and he took her across the correct street.
However, he then accompanied her for half a block.
We pointed out that an important part of the process is letting go after getting the help, and the students discussed ways of assuring the person that they're all right from there.
The rest of the students didn't use canes. Dona was sure that without the cane, no one would help, but we tried it anyway, and Dona had to eat her words!
The first one to try it without a cane had one pedestrian walk by without helping, but then 3 drivers who had each gotten out of their cars came running up to help her across!
The next one also got help quickly even though she didn't use a cane.
The next student waited less than a minute before a driver stopped and told the student he could cross.
The student said he needed help because he was visually impaired, so she said she'd go park the car and come back to help.
He waited about a minute and she came and helped him across, but then stayed with him until he went into the nursing home across the street.
The sixth student waited less than a minute before a man walked up to help him -- this man lives nearby and had actually helped another student earlier.
The last student, who was only 10 years old, was shown how to hold the sign, and one of the instructors then guided her across.
The students thought maybe the reason they were able to get help with no cane was because they were children, and wondered if drivers would help an older person who had no cane.
Oooh, that's a great question, and Dona was curious about it too!
Being the oldest person there (by far!), Dona decided to try it herself, so she went to stand at the corner and hold up the sign asking for help without a cane.
nnShe waited less than a minute before drivers from the right AND the left had stopped and rolled down the window to tell her she could cross.
She said she needed help to cross because she couldn't see well, and one of the drivers, who was elderly and seemed to have difficulty walking, came and offered his hand and guided her across.
The students had stayed up past 10:00 the night before, swimming and chatting and snacking, and the boys had gotten up at 5:00 to go exercise and swim again.
So, while the students each took a turn getting help, the rest started out with group hugs (what would be more fun?) but ended up as you see here. It's been a long two days!
After our fun with the sign, we went back to wrap up and talk about what had been learned. The students said that one thing that happened is that they got a chance to get together again!
And they said that they had learned:
to hear which lanes the cars are in;
how to get help (one student said she was nervous to begin with, but isn't any more!);
you don't need a cane to get help!
how to decide if the risk of crossing is okay;
if you don't like the odds of crossing, there are alternatives
students with vision learned they can use their ears to cross.
One student said the workshop gave them the foundation and walls for the building, now they need to fill in the rest.
After the wrap-up, the team of instructors gathered for a photo but . . . uh-oh, what's happening? YES, one of the students comes up for another group hug, what fun!
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
Province of New Brunswick, Canada
October 17-18, 2013
The next workshop was held in a rural area where several of the students lived.
There, the students were able to apply some of the things that they had learned at the last workshop to analyze crossings with no traffic control.
The videos below show some of the activities.
We started at the street in front of the home of one of the students, and just listened to the traffic patterns.
In the video to the left, the students who had vision noticed something very interesting, and all the students shared some insights about masking sounds.
At one point, the students were split into two groups, one working on listening skills for judging street crossings and the other group practicing their skills visually judging when the approaching cars are far / slow enough to allow time to cross safely (as explained in the Self-Study Guide).
In the 5-minute video to the right, Dona finds out how much time the students need for their crossing with a safety margin, and as vehicles approach they practice guessing when is the last moment that they still have time to cross.
Later, because it was difficult for Dona to determine when the students were indicating that they thought they still had barely enough time to cross safely, she asked them to raise their hand as the cars approached and keep it raised until they thought they no longer had enough time to cross with a safety margin.
To find out if they judged correctly, Dona started the timer when they lowered their hand and stopped it when the car arrived.
In the video to the right, when the students did very well, one of them started a victory dance.
Once the students were able to judge when they still had enough time to cross, they were asked to make that judgment by glancing, as explained in the Self-Study Guide.
IMPORTANT: Having the students practice in a group is a great way to introduce these skills, but they will still need individual instruction to make sure they have mastered the skills and can apply them in a variety of situations.