MANATEE -- When George West is out on the street and hears airplanes take off from the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, he can tell which way is south or north.
Since he is blind he depends on noises, people's voices and cars driving by to walk around the city, he said.
But the sound and length of traffic signals at an intersection near his home are not loud and long enough to help him safely cross the streets, West said.
"There's no way in the world a blind person can use that kind of light," West, 83, said. "When traffic is heavy you can't hear. ... You can't distinguish what is the right direction."
Pedestrians at the 59th Street and 11th Avenue west intersection can control the traffic signals by pressing a button at each of the four street corners. Once the button is pressed, a male voice warns the pedestrian to wait, then it names the street they're about to cross, and then beeps for a few seconds alerting the pedestrian that they can cross.
"One of the problems with a blind person is that they cannot walk straight, they either go to the left or right, they need the noise to follow," West said. "That's what the countdown and chirpings do."
He said the beeping noise is lost among the flow of traffic on busy mornings and afternoons, making the crossing difficult. It is also not long enough so it cannot be heard in the middle of the transition, he said.
"Noise is what blind people go by and if you can't hear, (they) might as well have nothing," said West.
Ron Schulhofer, public works di
rector for Manatee County, said representatives from the county and an organization that helps the visually impaired will meet with West on Thursday morning at the 59th Street and 11th Avenue West intersection to ensure that he knows how to cross safely.
"The volume is a good volume now," Schulhofer said.
The sound on the traffic signals can be increased or decreased depending on the ambient sounds around it, he said.
"We try to lower the volumes late in the evening. Otherwise, people at two or three in the morning would hear sounds," Schulhofer said.
The intersection is surrounded by residences, including the Meadow Croft neighborhood, where West lives.
West said that in previous attempts, he has been told that the noise cannot be increased because it would be too loud for the nearby homes.
"We're working with him, meeting Thursday morning on site," Schulhofer said. "We'll adjust the volume so that he can hear."