City of Christchurch in New Zealand Sets Out Good Example to Help Blind People Cross the Street Safely

City of Christchurch in New Zealand Sets Out Good Example to Help Blind People Cross the Street Safely

City of Christchurch in New Zealand Sets Out Good Example to Help Blind People Cross the Street Safely

 

Latest statistics from 2013 estimated that there are 30,000 individuals in New Zealand affected by blindness or low vision. Among their day-to-day struggle: road crossing. The City of Christchurch, the 3rd largest city in New-Zealand, made a point of helping blind pedestrians at intersections and crossroads. 

How does the City of Christchurch has become a worldwide exemplary city in terms of inclusion of visually impaired people and more generally of people with disabilities? What concrete actions have been put in place to achieve this?

 

Helping blind people cross the street safely

 

National guidelines

 

A May 2015 guideline issued by the New Zealand Transport Agency – Guidelines for facilities for blind and vision impaired pedestrians 3rd Edition – provide best practice design and installation principles for pedestrian facilities to assist people with vision impairment. The document is the work of many different associations including the Blind Foundation that expressed the idea that there was a need for pedestrian facilities consistency throughout the country. This guideline was first produced in 1997 and this is the third revision.

The guideline sets out standards for pedestrian facility design information, tactile ground surface indicators (TGSI) and audible tactile traffic signals (ATTS) which have been applied by cities throughout New-Zealand including the City of Christchurch.

Regarding ATTS implementation, these guidelines state that: “ATTS shall be installed at all new or upgraded signalised intersections wherever traffic signals include pedestrian signals.”

 

Local policy

Following the publication of these national guidelines, the City of Christchurch has published local policies – Intersection & Pedestrian Crossing Design for People with Disabilities 2016 – to implement these guidelines at local level.

 

This Policy will apply to:

⊗ new intersections equipped with pedestrian crossings

⊗ replacement and repaired intersections with existing and/or new pedestrian crossings; this only applies to major works.

Suitable and complying facilities will be installed in the situations above to assist people with visual impairment to allow safe and secure crossing at intersections. 

According to the policy, these facilities will include, but are not limited to: 

⊗ Tactile Ground Surface Indicators (TGSI) or tactile pavers with contrasting colours,

⊗ Audible Tactile Traffic Signals (ATTS) for visually impaired pedestrians,

⊗ Measures to guide and ease the pedestrian’s journey,

⊗ Left turn slip lane, pedestrian crossings and islands (refuges), which may include zebra crossings, vertical deflection (e.g. a raised table) and traffic signals to slow down or stop vehicles,

⊗ Complying with design, location and colour of push button box for visually impaired persons and placing the buttons at a suitable height for wheelchair users.

⊗ Provide drop down kerbs and minimise footpath cambers to assist mobility impaired pedestrians.

⊗ Consider longer “green” periods for crossings close to certain facilities, e.g. retirement villages, hospitals, medical centres, etc. 

The City of Christchurch places a great emphasis on facilitating the crossing of pedestrian with disabilities and especially for the visually impaired. But the city does not stop there.

Inclusive Christchurch

 

The city offers other amenities and services to adapt to the entire population, even to those most in need.

The first service is an interactive map for people with motor or hearing disabilities. This map, available on the city’s website, allows them to find accessible toilets, hearing loops, parking and mobility scooter hire locations in Christchurch. This initiative proposed by the city supports people with specific needs in their travels and helps them to gain autonomy.

The second project aims at promoting an “inclusive, welcoming service model of community recreation”. KiwiAble is a network of people committed to getting more people with a disability involved in sport, recreation and leisure by breaking down barriers to participation. By providing a card free of charge, people living with disabilities are offered up to 50% discounts on different activities. The program also offers advices, promotes the concept of inclusive community and much more!

From a legal point of view, the city’s accessibility policy relies on a 2001 local policy – Equity and Access for People with Disabilities Policy – that conveys the following values:

⊗ Accessibility

⊗ Diversity

⊗ Equity

⊗ Inclusion

⊗ Human rights

⊗ Participation

 

The text stipulates in particular that “people with disabilities should not be prohibited from participation in their chosen recreational, social or employment activities because of architectural or attitudinal barriers.”

The City of Christchurch has demonstrated initiatives regarding accessibility regulations. Indeed, three years after this local policy, a state law has followed: the Building Act, 2004.

“All building work must comply with the Building Act 2004 by following the New Zealand Building Code. Under this Code, building and design features must allow people with disabilities to carry out normal activities and processes within them”.

In 2013, continuing along the accessibility path, the City of Christchurch has implemented a recovery plan called An Accessible City intended to create better streets for pedestrians, encourage cycling, enhance streetscapes, encourage bus travel, efficient access for vehicles to destinations within the central city, offer new wayfinding systems etc. 

According to this plan, all public buildings, roads and footpaths should have now been rebuilt to comply with the Building Act 2001 by following the New Zealand Building Code. This means more accessible and safe street and built environment for people with disabilities but also people with temporary mobility issue, older people and young children.

The city of Christchurch is an example in New Zealand and in the world for its accessibility policy. 

 

But what are the shapes of things to come in the following years? Maybe an audible tactile traffic signals remotely activatable to facilitate the crossing of visually impaired people? Or a digital wayfinding application for disabled people to guide them in complex venues. Only time will tell…

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The City of Christchurch places a great emphasis on facilitating the crossing of pedestrian with disabilities and especially for the visually impaired. But the city does not stop there.

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Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

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Have You Ever Heard About Visible Light Positioning? Tomas Escuin’s from i2CAT Offers His Insights

Have You Ever Heard About Visible Light Positioning? Tomas Escuin’s from i2CAT Offers His Insights

Have You Ever Heard About Visible Light Positioning? Tomas Escuin’s from i2CAT Offers His Insights

 

During our visit at the 9th edition of Smart City Expo in Barcelona we had the chance to discover a wide range of innovations which include a heavy emphasis on inclusion and accessibility. Among them, an encounter with Tomas Escuin and the innovation carried by his research center based in Catalonia i2CAT: Visible Light Positioning.

What is Visible Light Positioning? And how can it benefit the lives of disabled people?

Inclusive City Maker gives voice to Tomas Escuin in charge of the project development at local and international level.

Can you please introduce yourself and i2CAT?

I am Tomas Escuin, an industrial engineer with financial education and experience in technology transfer. 

The i2CAT Foundation is a non-profit research and innovation center that promotes mission-driven R&D activities on advanced Internet architectures, applications and services. More than 15 years of international research define our expertise in the fields of 5G, IoT, VR and Immersive Technologies, Cybersecurity, Blockchain, Open Big Data and AI. The center partners with companies, public administration, universities and end-users to leverage this knowledge in order to meet real society and business challenges.

 

“Fostering collaboration for an Internet based on intelligent systems and smart technologies.”

 

i2CAT promotes the technology transfer of the innovations and intellectual property outcome of research projects through:

⊗ Fostering strategic alliances to create innovative market-oriented technologies and solutions addressed to the different verticals.

⊗ Coordinating the design and deployment of trials for technological and functional validation purposes with local partners, public administration and users.

⊗ Setting up IPR exploitation agreements, creating mixed R&D teams with companies and boosting and supporting the creation of start-ups.

 

More information about i2CAT, key figures and the Annual Report here.

 

How does Visible Light Positioning work?

Visible light positioning works as the image below shows:

 visible light positioning

 

Ceiling lights emit different codes (blinking patterns) that can be read by the camera of a conventional smartphone, which is, in effect, taking pictures constantly. Thanks to the camera configuration that our app provides, the smartphone “sees” the light fixtures as barcodes that are translated as positions. Knowing the position of the different lights detected, the phone can calculate a specific position.

To make the lights blink, we have created a modulator that can be configured to switch on and off the lights by following the loaded code.

 

How does Visible Light Positioning can benefit disabled people in their day-to-day lives?

Our technology allows a high-accuracy and low-cost positioning system for indoor environments, so it can be used in a very wide range of cases. 

For disabled people, our approach would be to use the position of the individual in order to offer the user information about his/her immediate environment.

One case was the supermarket that you experienced at SCEWC. What we did was recreate a supermarket setting with products on shelves and ceiling lights. When pointing at products with the smartphone camera facing upwards, an audible message could be heard stating the nature of the product. 

In this context, Visible Light Positioning allows blind people to know which products are in front of them, but also allows people with motor disabilities who can not reach the products to read their labels.

But, this technology can have many more uses. For instance, we could deploy our system in subway/train stations, airports, state buildings or public venues as a way to guide people with visual impairments or to facilitate other information when pointing their phones at something (doors, signs, etc.).

 

Do all smartphones have light-sensing capabilities?

 

Yes and no… The only thing we do is take pictures constantly, but our App needs to “talk” with the camera of the phone to explain how to take those pictures in terms of exposure, shutter speed, contrast, etc… The issue is that not all phones have the required level of possibilities to deploy this camera configuration, but most do. We haven’t developed the app for iOS yet.

 

Is i2CAT working on other projects that could directly influence the lives of disabled people in the future?

 

Although we are not specifically targeting disabled people, we do our best to apply our research to society in general so that technology can benefit every citizen.

Vincles BCN is an example. It’s not intended for disabled people but for elders. Vincles BCN is a social innovation project that aims to strengthen the social ties of older people living in Barcelona who feel alone and to improve their well-being through new technologies. Its main objective is to break with the social isolation of the elderly through the establishment of a network of public support and of its personal environment, which includes family, friends, social workers and volunteers through the use of a tablet.

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In this context, Visible Light Positioning allows blind people to know which products are in front of them, but also allows people with motor disabilities who can not reach the products to read their labels.

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

follow us!

more articles

5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 Must-Have Apps for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People in 2020  Technological breakthroughs can do miracles. For the 466 million people worldwide having disabling hearing loss (WHO), smartphones have become an essential tool to facilitate social interaction due to...

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

Sign up now for our newsletter.

Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.