Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Problem with Warning Signs

by Donna J. Jodhan

Believe it or not, warning signs play a very crucial and important part in our daily lives. We put them up when we need to warn others of pending danger or perils and we also depend on them to tell us when we need to be aware of something that could potentially harm or hurt us. 99.9% of the time, these signs are very easy to see because they are constructed using extremely bright and garish colors and they are almost always strategically placed so that they are easy to spot. However, there is one huge factor that most of the sighted world still seems to miss and that is: Warning signs have not been taught to speak and before you start to get on my back for saying this I would like to explain by giving you a real example.

A few weeks ago when I stepped out of my condominium to walk to the elevator, I was greeted by a strong smell of paint. I immediately knew that the workmen were painting close by but what I did not know was precisely where. I decided to be super careful as I walked but soon ran into trouble when my jacket came in contact with wet paint on the wall close to my door. Before I knew it, the sleeve of my jacket was covered with paint. When I went to the management office to ask that in future they let me know when and where they would be painting, their response was: "Well, did you not see the wet paint sign tacked onto your door?" When I told them that I did not because I am blind, their response was: "Maybe you should be more careful whenever you smell paint."

This interaction totally frustrated me and before leaving the office I told them that maybe in the future they should try to develop a sign that would talk to me and tell me that they were there. They should develop a sign that would let me know what I needed to. Unfortunately this did not go over very well and a few days later I returned to the office to have a common sense chat with the management team.

The lesson here is that it does not do any good for me to be sarcastic to the staff at the management office. Instead, I need to find ways to help them to understand why it is important for them to ensure that warning signs are communicated to all tenants both mainstream as well as those with special needs. Being sarcastic and angry will only infuriate them and get their backs up but working with them to find a solution is what would work best. I was able to convince them that they need to communicate with all of the condominium dwellers whenever they are putting up warning signs because doing this will not only benefit me, it will also benefit those who are unable to read due to a print disability.

There are millions of persons in our world who are unable to read because of various reasons and they are classified as print disabled. Warning signs are terrific if you can see them but for those of us who are either unable to see or read them, they become literally useless and more of a hazard if we end up bumping into them and injuring ourselves. I know that it is much easier to educate the staff at a management office but it is time for us to educate those around us and the world as a whole.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan, an accessibility and special needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day and reminding you to start educating others on how to deal with warning signs. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all:
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility:
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns:

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