Are Accessible Pedestrian Signals Required in Your Country?
Pedestrian safety is a major milestone in building an inclusive and accessible city. To meet this ambition a simple solution has been developed to help visually impaired and blind people cross the road safely: the Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS). This integrated device located in the pedestrian light communicates tactile or/and audible information about the WALK and DON’T WALK interval.
If its regulation is not always easy to be familiar with, we have deciphered for you the great founding principles that legislate Accessible Pedestrian Signals around the world.
International Law Requires Equal Access for People with Disabilities
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Security, safety and freedom of movement are fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The installation of Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) allowing visually impaired and blind people to cross the road safely meets the principle of equal access for all. This is one of the pillars of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) adopted by the United Nations in 2007. With 177 States parties all around the world, the Convention stresses that persons with disabilities should be able to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life. States parties should then take the appropriate measures to achieve this objective.
In its article 9 about Accessibility, the Convention provides that: “These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility, shall apply to, inter alia:
- a) Buildings, roads, transportation and other indoor and outdoor facilities, including schools, housing, medical facilities and workplaces;
- b) Information, communications and other services, including electronic services and emergency services.”
The signatories shall “develop, promulgate and monitor the implementation of minimum standards and guidelines for the accessibility of facilities and services open or provided to the public.
Europe: Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities
The European Union is a party of UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and promotes therefore the active inclusion and full participation of disabled people in society. Accessibility is one of the eight priority areas of the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 with one clear objective: make goods and services accessible to people with disabilities and promote the market of assistive devices. The European Accessibility Act was adopted in March 2019 and Member States have six years to transpose it into national law.
One of the measures to be implemented under this decision is that all goods and services provide information in more than one sensory channel: vision, auditory, speech and tactile elements. Accessible Pedestrian Signals meet these requirements and improve pedestrian safety for visually impaired and blind people.
America: Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination
The Inter-American Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities was adopted in 1999 within the Organization of American States. 19 States have ratified the convention yet including Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.
One of the objectives of this convention is to promote full integration of disabled people into society. This includes:
- “Measures to ensure that new buildings, vehicles, and facilities constructed or manufactured within their respective territories facilitate transportation, communications, and access by persons with disabilities;
- Measures to eliminate, to the extent possible, architectural, transportation, and communication obstacles to facilitate access and use by persons with Disabilities.”
In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also establishes a clear and comprehensive prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability. The title III “Public Accommodations” sets the minimum standards for accessibility for alterations and new construction of facilities.
National Regulations Standardize Accessible Pedestrian Signals
After a global overview of the various founding regulatory texts that govern and regulate the implementation of Accessible Pedestrian Signals in the world, let’s see how it works nationally. The following section will not go into detail as local laws will be developed in dedicated articles, but will fly over basic legal principles.
The Proposed Accessibility Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right-of-Way from July 26, 2011 states that all pedestrian crosswalks must be accessible to pedestrians with disabilities. The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) requires improving accessibility at all newly constructed or reconstructed intersections where pedestrian lights are installed.
The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) from 2009 also delivers some information regarding the walk indications provided by these pedestrian traffic signals:
“Accessible pedestrian signals shall have both audible and vibrotactile walk indications.”
“Accessible pedestrian signals shall have an audible walk indication during the walk interval only.”
“The accessible walk indication shall have the same duration as the pedestrian walk signal except when the pedestrian signal rests in walk.”
“Speech walk messages shall provide a clear message that the walk interval is in effect, as well as to which crossing it applies.”
For more information about APS regulation in New York City, check our dedicated article.
The New TAC Accessible Pedestrian Signals Guidelines of 2007 adopted by the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) indicates that the Accessible Pedestrian Signals must provide an audible, visual and vibrotactile acknowledgement of the actuation to support the needs of people with hearing and vision loss.
Two types of pushbutton actuation have been identified as relevant by different stakeholders:
- The normal actuation which has a strong preference from the industry and from the community because it is simple of use. It is triggered with the simple press-and-release pushbutton actuating the audible and vibrotactile signal.
- The beacon actuation that occurs when the pedestrian pushbutton is pressed and held for a predefined time period. This method is used by many jurisdictions.
The Guidelines also provide several information regarding the walk interval, the audible information, the push button location, the volume adjustment as well as deployment and maintenance instructions.
For more information about APS regulation in Montreal, check our dedicated article.
The Law for the Attention and Integral Development of People with Disabilities was approved in December 2009. In the Article 28, Paragraph 3 can be found established measures for the installation of visual and auditory signs on main pedestrian crosswalks in order to guarantee the safety of people with disability.
A public investigation on pedestrian crossings from 2018 for the city of Mexico states that only 5% of pedestrian crossing signals are equipped with an audible and/or tactile signal for now. The result of this survey therefore calls for the establishment of Accessible Pedestrian Signals to enhance universal accessibility and abide by the law of 2009.
The Mexican secretary of communications and transportation has also issued a series of texts regulating pedestrian crossing lights.
The article 9 of the law 10098 of 19 December 2000 issued by The National Traffic Department Denatran states that pedestrian crossing signs installed on public roads should be equipped with a mechanism that send mild, intermittent sound signal and without stridency, or with alternative engine, which serves as a guide or orientation for people with visual impairment.
It is the responsibility of the Brazilian’s executive transit agencies to carry out the necessary studies to set up audible traffic lights, at least in the places provided for by law. The regulation will come into force from the 1st of January 2020.
The French law stipulates that an audible signal must be emitted when the pedestrian crossing light is green and that an audio message beginning with “red pedestrian” must be issued when the pedestrian light is red. The Article 7 of the Decree of 23 September 2015 completes this regulation and requires the addition of the geographical location, ie the name of the street. The implementation of this device concerns all newly and renovated intersections.
The Accessible Pedestrian Signals operate by manual activation through a push button located on the mast, or through a dedicated remote control defined in the NF S32-002 standard.
This legislation aims at preserving the mobility chain described in the 2005 Disability Act for the road’s accessibility.
The Article 6 of the Italian Presidential Decree No. 503/1996 states that newly installed or substituted traffic lights must be accessible to blind people and to all the people who need time to cross the street.
These installations can be in continuous operation or on call. The information codes on these devices are divided into three phases which correspond to the green, yellow and red indicator.
The law requires two parts: the push button to actuate the audio signal and the speaker that must be mounted on the mast above the pedestrian figure. Both devices can not work without each other.
The Irish Equal Status Acts from 2000 states that services which are available to the general public should also be available to people with disabilities. This includes road crossings. Acoustic signals therefore come as a solution that meets the legal requirements of the country.
The Disability Act from 2005 makes all Local Government Authorities responsible for making their public buildings, streets, footpaths, parks etc. as accessible as possible for everyone, including people with disabilities.
The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) from 2016 is the regulatory text that standardizes APS in the country.
The Department of Transport has also issued a Local Transport Note stating that: “(…) audible signals or bleepers in the form of a pulsed tone and/or tactile signals are normally used during the green figure period. The signals are intended for the benefit of blind or partially sighted pedestrians although they can also be helpful to others.”
More recently, the Traffic Open Products and Specifications (TOPAS) has published a document stating that “there are two types of audible products. The ‘single bleep’ version is for installations at single carriageway crossing sites and the ‘bleep and sweep” version is specifically for use at ‘staggered’ crossing facilities. The product emits an audible signal when a steady green pedestrian signal is being displayed and the signal controller’s audible/tactile drive output is present.”
New Zealand and Australia
The 2015 New Zealand Guidelines for facilities for blind and vision impaired pedestrians provides details about Audible Tactile Traffic Signals (ATTS) requirements as well as their set up. All new or upgraded signalised intersections including pedestrian signals must be equipped with Audible Tactile Traffic Signals (ATTS).
The upgrade of pedestrian signals to fully compliant Audible Tactile Traffic Signals (ATTS) systems should be prioritised after considering the following factors:
- Road Crossing Distance
- Pedestrian Accident History
- High Pedestrian Flows
- Consultation with Disability Group
- Intersection Configuration
- Vehicle Speeds
- The Proximity of Public Facilities
International Conventions regulate the major founding principles related to disability and particularly to road’s accessibility. Implementing Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) in your city means meeting with the international principle of equal access for all. At national level, various texts make laws in terms of Accessible Pedestrian Signals use and implementation.
You want to know more about regulations from your city, your area or your country? You want to provide standards-based pedestrian crossing devices to avoid any penalty? Stay tuned. You will soon find all the information you need in our next articles.
The installation of Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) allowing visually impaired and blind people to cross the road safely meets the principle of equal access for all. This is one of the pillars of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) adopted by the United Nations in 2007.
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