Monica Carreno sees the world differently than other people.
The 10-year-old student at St. Mary’s School in Delaware has optic atrophy, a condition that makes it difficult to see — including signs, people and traffic lights.
“Someday when I am older I want to be able to walk around by myself and feel safe,” she said in a letter sent Jan. 26, 2016, to Bill Ferrigno, city engineer. Carreno, a third-grader at the time, requested that an audible pedestrian signal, or APS, system would be installed at the intersection of William and Sandusky streets.
She uses the intersection to get to her father’s work.
With the Parking and Safety Committee’s support for the project, City Council recently approved $35,000 to fund the work in its five-year capital improvement plan. The project is expected to start this week and should be completed within the next two weeks, city spokesman Lee Yoakum said.
“This integrated device communicates information non-visually, with audible tones and vibration, about walk and don’t walk intervals at signalized intersections,” he said.
With the new installation, all pedestrians will be required to push a button to cross the street, Yoakum said.
Ferrigno said he’s glad to provide the systems to make downtown more accessible for all residents. The city is responsive to such requests, he said. But normally receives them for sidewalk improvements and wheelchair-accessible ramps
“This is the first time we had a request to upgrade a signal for a visually-impaired resident,” he said.
Ferrigno said its important for residents to reach out to the city to improve pedestrian accessibility as it would be costly to upgrade all of the city’s signals. The downtown project costs more than a third of the city’s traffic operations budget, he said.
Ferrigno said they plan to do a similar project at the intersection of William and Liberty streets.
Carreno’s mother, Lisa Neilson, said other residents with similar conditions will appreciate the new technology. She said her daughter, who wears glasses, still needs a magnifier to see small print and sometimes needs to see things closer or larger.
Carreno works with a certified mobility specialist to improve her navigation skills. Her specialist helped her with the letter she sent to the city engineer.
The new system will help “Monica build the skills she needs to be independent,” Neilson said.
Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.