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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2012 May 4;53(6):2593-600. doi: 10.1167/iovs.11-9340.

Are normally sighted, visually impaired, and blind pedestrians accurate and reliable at making street crossing decisions?

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  • 1School of Optometry, Indiana University, 800 East Atwater Avenue, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.



The purpose of this study is to measure the accuracy and reliability of normally sighted, visually impaired, and blind pedestrians at making street crossing decisions using visual and/or auditory information.


Using a 5-point rating scale, safety ratings for vehicular gaps of different durations were measured along a two-lane street of one-way traffic without a traffic signal. Safety ratings were collected from 12 normally sighted, 10 visually impaired, and 10 blind subjects for eight different gap times under three sensory conditions: (1) visual plus auditory information, (2) visual information only, and (3) auditory information only. Accuracy and reliability in street crossing decision-making were calculated for each subject under each sensory condition.


We found that normally sighted and visually impaired pedestrians were accurate and reliable in their street crossing decision-making ability when using either vision plus hearing or vision only (P > 0.05). Under the hearing only condition, all subjects were reliable (P > 0.05) but inaccurate with their street crossing decisions (P < 0.05). Compared to either the normally sighted (P = 0.018) or visually impaired subjects (P = 0.019), blind subjects were the least accurate with their street crossing decisions under the hearing only condition.


Our data suggested that visually impaired pedestrians can make accurate and reliable street crossing decisions like those of normally sighted pedestrians. When using auditory information only, all subjects significantly overestimated the vehicular gap time. Our finding that blind pedestrians performed significantly worse than either the normally sighted or visually impaired subjects under the hearing only condition suggested that they may benefit from training to improve their detection ability and/or interpretation of vehicular gap times.

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