Accessibility Toolkit: When Complete Streets Help People with Disabilities

Accessibility Toolkit: When Complete Streets Help People with Disabilities

Accessibility Toolkit: When Complete Streets Help People with Disabilities

 

After World War II, cars’ supremacy started to shape Northern American cities. Consequently men started to be more and more dependent on their personal vehicle to move around and roads were designed to the detriment of sidewalks, mass transit and bike trails. 

It was not until the early 1970s that some states like Oregon began to design the urban space with all users in mind to make transportation network safer and more efficient. This is how Complete Streets-like policy was born. Many jurisdictions have followed over the years.

Today, no less than 1,200 agencies at local, regional and state levels have adopted Complete Street policies in the United States. Depending on the jurisdiction, Complete Streets can be a non-binding resolution, incorporated into local transportation plans or a fully bidding law.

Meanwhile accessibility has never been such a strong challenge. According to recent studies, 1 adult in 4 lives with a disability which amounts to 61 million Americans (cdc.gov).

So what are Complete Streets policies and above all why do they matter for disabled people?

Complete Streets design elements

Streets are more and more congested. It can be hard for everyone to find their place, especially in city centers where pedestrians, bikes and motorized vehicles coexist. 

Complete Streets policies precisely aim at enabling safe use and support mobility for all users using various street design elements such as:

⊗ Pedestrian infrastructure: sidewalks, crosswalks, median crossing islands, curb extensions, pinchpoint, Accessible pedestrian Signals for visually impaired people, pedestrian wayfinding, greenery, and street furniture.

⊗ Traffic calming measures to lower speeds of vehicles: speed humps, speed tables, speed cushions, signage, and traffic lights.

⊗ Bicycle accommodations: protected or dedicated bicycle lanes, repair stations, and bicycle parking.

⊗ Public transit equipment: Bus Rapid Transit, bus pullouts, transit signal priority, bus shelters, and dedicated bus lanes.

Incomplete streets obstacles for disabled people

Cars’ supremacy left a legacy in Northern American cities. 

Car-centric roadways lead to uneven access to urban services. And it is all the more true for disabled people who most often cannot use cars. Cities that don’t offer Complete Streets measures in their busiest areas force citizens and especially disabled people to face huge challenges when getting around.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of what is causing difficulties to pedestrians with disabilities in “incomplete streets”-like designs:

⊗ Unpaved, broken, or disconnected surfaces

⊗ Lack of curb cuts and ramp

⊗ Ponding of stormwater and runoff streams near intersections

⊗ Lack of Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) at signalized intersections. This article goes into more details about this specific point.

⊗ Inadequate sidewalks or intersections design

⊗ Wide intersections with limited crossing time

⊗ Lack of escalators, elevators or ramps to overcome steps

⊗ Inaccessible bus stops

⊗ Large spaces without landmarks

⊗ Routes going nowhere

⊗ Inappropriate sidewalk obstacles

⊗ and the list goes on…

What benefits for disabled people?

Complete Streets design provides an environment where all street users, particularly the most vulnerable, can get around safely and efficiently. This means that regardless of the mode of transportation, the age, the ability, or the confidence level, streets are accessible, safe  and appropriate for the needs of all users. 

Ontario was the first Canadian state to adopt a Complete Streets policy to help disabled citizens navigate streets more efficiently. In 2017, Ontario’s Growth Plan encouraged equity by incorporating strong directives in order to build streets that meet the needs of all road users.

“In the design, refurbishment, or reconstruction of the existing and planned street network, a complete streets approach will be adopted that ensures the needs and safety of all road users are considered and appropriately accommodated.”

Moreover statistics show that pedestrian street activity increases support of local businesses and expands employment opportunities.

Streets are complete and accessible using mainly:

⊗ Tactile walking indicators;

⊗ Accessible Pedestrian Signals;

⊗ Push buttons accessible to wheelchair users;

⊗ Ramps and curb cuts

However, the legacy of years of valuing cars in Northern American society and the difficulty to change attitudes towards the most fragile people show that there is a lot of work to be done. 

Considering that major american cities have less than 1% of signalized intersections equipped with Accessible Pedestrian Signals, it leaves a lot of room for improvement!

Wondering which Accessible Pedestrian Signal to choose? Use the new APS comparator!

Find out more about this policy.

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Complete Streets design provides an environment where all street users, particularly the most vulnerable, can get around safely and efficiently.

This means that regardless of the mode of transportation, the age, the ability, or the confidence level, streets are accessible, safe  and appropriate for the needs of all users.

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Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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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.

[INFOGRAPHIC] How the City of Ottawa Can Improve its Accessibility with APS?

[INFOGRAPHIC] How the City of Ottawa Can Improve its Accessibility with APS?

[INFOGRAPHIC]

How the City of Ottawa Can Improve its Accessibility with APS?

 

Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) are Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) compliant signals that help the blind and visually impaired cross the street safely relying on audio cues. They provide valuable assistance at complex or noisy pedestrian crossings when only relying on the traffic flow can prove to be at risk.

Their installation is an integral part of accessibility policies of major American and Canadian cities. Ottawa is one of those cities that put people first.

In a city where around 50,000 blind people have difficulties getting around, Ottawa accessibility design standards have been developed to encourage diversity, remove physical barriers and provide solutions embracing the principles of “universal design”.

These standards require APS to be provided where new pedestrian signals are being installed or where pedestrian signals are being replaced. However a fair amount of locations still remain unequipped and the number of pedestrian injuries and fatalities highly dissuades blind people from crossing streets.

This infographic intents to highlight the importance of implementing more APS units in Ottawa.

For more information about Toronto APS policy, read this article:

How Do Blind People of Toronto Cross the Street Safely?

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In a city where around 50,000 blind people have difficulties getting around, Ottawa accessibility design standards have been developed to encourage diversity, remove physical barriers and provide solutions embracing the principles of “universal design”.

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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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.

How Accessible Pedestrian Signals Can Help Chicago Be the ‘Most Inclusive City in the Nation’?

How Accessible Pedestrian Signals Can Help Chicago Be the ‘Most Inclusive City in the Nation’?

How Accessible Pedestrian Signals Can Help Chicago Be the ‘Most Inclusive City in the Nation’?

 

Chicago is the third most populated city in the United States ranking after New York and Los Angeles. To facilitate the movement of vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists and thus prevent the city from plunging into chaos, 3,000 signalized traffic intersections have been set up throughout the city.

But have you ever wondered how do blind and partially sighted people know when it is safe to cross the street? 258,900 people have reported to live with visual disability in Illinois in 2019 yet only 11 intersections were equipped with Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) in that same year representing less than 1% of all signalized intersections.

What commitments the city has made to improve the mobility of thousands of people and thus make the city accessible to people of all abilities? And how can APS help the city global accessibility plan to go one step further?

 

Accessible Pedestrian Signal in Chicago: state of play

You might have noticed yellow housings with a raised arrow fixed on the pole of a few pedestrian crossings in Chicago. They are quite rare but yet of great help for visually impaired people. What are they exactly? They are called Accessible Pedestrian Signals. They provide information about the status of the pedestrian signal.

APS are composed of three main elements:

⊗ the pushbutton that emits a constant beeping sound in order to locate it

⊗ a tactile raised arrow that is lined up with the direction of travel on the crosswalk

⊗ audible walk indications according to national standard such an a rapid ticking sound when the WALK sign is on but it can be a speech message stating the street name etc.

For more details about APS definition and characteristics please read this article: Pedestrian Safety Are your Pedestrian Crossings Safe for Visually-Impaired and Blind People?

In compliance with the American with Disability Act of 1990 (ADA) federal standards, these new devices must equip all newly constructed intersections equipped with pedestrian signals or pedestrian facilities undergoing construction activity.

But the City of Chicago does not set as an example in terms of pedestrian safety law abiding. In 2019 only 11 APS were found amongst the 3,000 signalized intersections of the city. A class-action lawsuit has even been filled in 2019 by the American Council of The Blind of Metropolitan Chicago and three blind Chicago-area residents for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Collectively,” the complaint states, “these obstacles severely compromise blind pedestrians’ ability to move about the City like their sighted counterparts do: safely, independently, expeditiously, and without fear.”

In response, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot announced a few months later that Chicago will be adding up to 100 new Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) at locations across the city in the next two years rising to around 3% the city equipement rate. As a comparison, New York City has a 2% APS equipment rate at the time of writing.

Since this declaration, no statistics on the number of APS have been published but there should already be around fifty of these new units in central Chicago according to 2019’s Mayor commitments.

Please refer to the map of the proposed APS location issued in July 2019.

Understand difficulties faced by blind people in Chicago

The installation of traffic lights in cities starting in 1923 in Chicago has enabled visually impaired people to finally leave their homes. At least to cross the street independently by listening to the traffic flow. However, recent urban development of large cities like Chicago makes it more and more difficult to rely only on traffic audio cues.

Here are some of the challenges that blind and partially sighted Chicagoans face on a daily basis when trying to get to the other side of the sidewalk:

⊗ cars don’t always stop behind the crosswalk

⊗ crossing time is different depending on the time of day

⊗ complex streets: routes can be straight, diagonal or cross multiple lanes

⊗ ambient noise : the noise of L cars overhead, plus buses, people, and bikes

⊗ weather condition of the Windy City: when it’s raining or windy, it can be hard to hear the sounds of the traffic

⊗ signal phases – when pedestrians get a few seconds head start before vehicle traffic starts – have caused confusion for blind pedestrians than only rely on traffic sound

⊗ cars are quieter

The difficulties of crossing noisy, busy, or complex streets without APS are indeed so severe that some blind pedestrians attempt to avoid risky intersections altogether by using indirect, longer routes, or by taking paratransit, even though paratransit must be arranged for 24-hours in advance.

APS is a cheap answer that addresses most of these issues.

How can APS systems be part of an Inclusive City global plan?

“We want to make Chicago the most inclusive city in the nation, period. No exceptions.” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at The Chicago Lighthouse, a social service agency that supports people with visual impairments.

The city’s goal is clear. To achieve this, the mayor has put in place several initiatives at the heart of the Vision Zero action plan. Vision Zero is a global growing program that aims at eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2026.

The 2017-2019 action plan states that the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) must commit to safe street for all Chicagoans best know as Complete Streets.

This transportation policy and design approach includes state recommended design elements that provide safer crossings, safer speeds, and safer streets for all users. These elements appear in Chicago‘s Pedestrian Plan and Complete Streets Design Guidelines as well as the Vision Zero action plan.

These elements include:

⊗ right-sized streets

⊗ pedestrian refuge islands

⊗ bump-outs

⊗ protected bike lanes

⊗ pedestrian countdown timers and leading pedestrian intervals

⊗ Accessible Pedestrian Signals

⊗ in-road state law stop for pedestrians signs

⊗ speed feedback signs

The installation of APS in Chicago must be though as a global pedestrian safety program to improve blind people’s accessibility. As part of the Vision Zero action plan, the implementation of APS in the city highlights the importance of prioritizing the health and safety of all roadway users.

More APS would definitely help Chicago score points to be recognized as the global reference in accessibility.

If you want to increase the number of APS units in Chicago or in another city and want to choose the best possible options, feel free to check the APS comparator. This tool will help you make a market research based on different APS technical features.

In line with the city’s commitments to make Chicago more inclusive, the city is starting to think about setting up a wayfinding system on the rail system to help blind, visually impaired and deafblind people navigate the street safely. The All Stations Accessibility Program (ASAP) would help reduce costs assistance and make the network easier.

One step further to be ‘the most inclusive city in the nation’.

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The installation of APS in Chicago must be though as a global pedestrian safety program to improve blind people’s accessibility. As part of the Vision Zero action plan, the implementation of APS in the city highlights the importance of prioritizing the health and safety of all roadway users.

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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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.

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.

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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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.

How Do Blind People of Toronto Cross the Street Safely?

How Do Blind People of Toronto Cross the Street Safely?

How Do Blind People of Toronto Cross the Street Safely?

 

681,000 blind people have been identified in Ontario in 2007, making Ontario by far the province where the concentration of blind people is the strongest. Toronto – the leading City of the region – is committed to creating an accessible City to provide for dignity and independence of people with disabilities through different action plans.

We are therefore entitled to ask what solutions the City has implemented to allow blind people to cross the street safely and what uses come as a result.

The diversity of the needs and the constraints vary widely among the visually impaired community. Depending on how old the person was when the disability occurred, the mobility aid used (white cane, guide dog or nothing), eventual residual visual abilities, the mastery of technological tools, the presence of another disability, the knowledge of the city…, mobility approaches vary widely.

However certain mobility needs remain common. In this article, we will attempt to list the obstacles faced by visually impaired people when they cross the street in Toronto and talk about solutions to mitigate the problems encountered.

Visual impairment: 2 solutions to cross the street safely in Toronto

With 4,67% of its population living with blindness, Toronto remains a city where the implementation of accessibility facilities for the visually impaired is essential. 

Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS)

On June 16, 1994 the first audible signal was installed on the junction of Lawrence Avenue and Chatsworth Drive in Toronto.

The Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) also known as audible signal is “an integrated device that communicates information about the WALK and DON’T WALK intervals at signalized intersections in non-visual formats” (source : www.apsguide.org/). 

As of July 2019, out of the 3014 signalized intersections in Toronto, 999 of the major intersections are equipped with APS which represents 33,15% of the total signalized intersections, i.e, 2487 APS units in total. They have been rolled out little by little across the city in the last 25 years.

Back in the days, the first APS came on automatically, but due to noise complaints from people living or working nearby, push buttons have been introduced. Holding the button for three or more seconds sets off audible cues – chirping signals crossing is safe for east-west, cuckoo for north-south. The button also provides a vibro-tactile output, to alert pedestrians with both sight and hearing loss that the light has changed.

For more information about APS regulations in the City of Toronto, read this article.

Tactile paving

The bumpy surfaces located at the edge of the pavement are meant to warn people living with visual limitations when they are approaching danger such as a pedestrian crossing.

In the City of Toronto, tactile paving is relatively recent compared to APS system and was first tested out in a pilot program that ran for eight months between November 2012 and July 2013. It was based on guidelines from the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 that laid out new standards for the design of public spaces. The provincial regulations came into effect in 2013 requiring new constructions, built from 2016 onward, to include tactile walking surfaces. 

For the pilot project, tactile paving blocks made of different materials were installed at the four corners of the intersection of Shuter Street and Victoria Street, by St. Michael’s Hospital. They were tested for durability, cost, maintenance, and how much the bumpy surface would wear down over time. At the end of 2013, it was recommended that Toronto should use cast iron for its tactile walking surfaces.

Main difficulties encountered by blind people with road crossing

But why did these accessibility facilities first appeared? 25 years ago, visually impaired people only relied on their ears and their mobility aid (white cane or guide dog) to cross the road safely. 

On the one hand, the City of Toronto has developed a policy that is increasingly focused on the accessibility of people with disabilities. On the other hand, urban development and technological solutions have given rise to new accessibility problems.

Modern crossroads designs 

Most modern signalized intersections no longer allow people with visual limitations to cross the road by listening to the traffic flows.

Recent junctions in which the crossing times are adjusted to accommodate traffic flows, advance greens for turning vehicles, and leading pedestrian intervals, for example, mean that people who are blind cannot safely rely on the sound of moving traffic as an auditory cue to know when the light changes and they have the right of way.

APS push button actuation

Then came more and more APS to tackle this issue. But the introduction of push buttons lately has brought its own set of challenges for people living with visual impairments and all the other pedestrians.

Blind people of Toronto have been insisting over the years that it would be much simpler for them if the audible signal came on automatically and they didn’t have to find and press the button, but allowances have been made for the comfort of other residents of the city. Now at most major intersections, the APS is activated only when someone holds the button down for three seconds or more.

The implementation of push buttons has led to other problems. Indeed, this system is much more complicated to use than an automatic activation for many reasons.

Pole placement 

The push button being located to the left of the crossing – the same side the guide dog is – making it harder to reach. Once the button is located, it is then difficult to reorient in the direction of the crossing.

Also, despite Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s (CNIB) guidelines, taken from various standards and best practices, pole placement can be dramatically influenced by complex engineering or design considerations. The end result is an inconsistent and unpredictable placement of poles. This will require a pedestrian with sight loss to explore until they find the pole and locate the correct activation button. This can prove particularly daunting for someone who is blind and unfamiliar with the layout of an intersection.

Despite existing standards requiring that poles are located within 1.5m maximum distance between the pole and the curb, seasonal conditions, placement of sidewalk elements and other mitigating factors can result in poles being situated beyond a pedestrians easy reach.

Complexity of button design

Also, people with other physical disabilities may face difficulty pressing this button. Activating an APS via a push button requires a combination of reach, strength and dexterity. A large range of conditions can affect these abilities.

Noise pollution 

Moreover, the locator tone – the repeating sound enabling to locate the activation button – is often hard to hear because of the increasing noise pollution in Toronto. Indeed, the city has been experiencing great economic and demographic growth in these recent years, plunging the city into a degraded soundscape that prevents visually impaired people from hearing the locator tone easily.

Confusion with walk sign trigger

In December 2018, a new sign above APS actuation buttons have been introduced in Toronto stating “Button for audible signal only” in order to avoid confusion with the walk signal trigger by the sighted.

The reason the sign was added is because of the risk of confusion for the sighted with the button used to activate the walk signal. Indeed, the button design is exactly the same and sighted people have been wondering why their request had not been taken into account. The sign thus aims at avoiding any confusion. When both audible signal and walk signal coexist on the same pole, a tap or a hold on the button differentiates the request.

Rounded intersections

Regarding tactile paving, the blind community has pointed out their limit. When intersections are rounded, a visually impaired person cannot clearly determine where the edge is located. Thus, if the crossing is not equipped with an APS, the crossing may be much harder.

Wireless Pedestrian Systems

Both APS and tactile paving are of great use for blind pedestrian to ensure safety of their journey. However as seen above, these equipments have their limits which can be overcome with wireless Accessible Pedestrian Signals activated remotely with a personal hand-held device or a smartphone. In France for example, push button have be replaced a long time ago by personal activation using a remote control free for the user or a smartphone app.

In 2016, an Ottawa-based startup called Key2Access have patented their solution and tested it in Toronto. Two actuating modes are available both free for the end-user: the key fob button or the smartphone app. Either way, people using it do not have to go searching for the button by the side of the road. Key2Access is still a running pilot project in several cities in Canada but has not progressed to that stage yet in Toronto.

Another solution is aBeacon – a 3rd generation APS device – winner of the call for innovation of New York City’s Department of transportation. The system also gets triggered using a remote control or a smartphone app and provides a new kind of urban connectivity to facilitate maintenance. Additional features enhance the pedestrian experience by providing supplemental information such as street names, sidewalk closures or pending hazards.

 

Over the years the City of Toronto has implemented a rather advantageous policy that benefits the visually impaired. With more than 33% of signalized junctions equipped with APS and all new junctions with tactile paving, the city is among the most accessible Canadian city in this area. On the other hand, the presence of actuation button on Accessible Pedestrian Signals remains a strong stake that needs to be addressed to ensure safety and autonomy of people with visual limitations. 

Will the city soon respond to this problem? It is up to you to decide!

media

Blind people of Toronto have been insisting over the years that it would be much simpler for them if the audible signal came on automatically and they didn’t have to find and press the button, but allowances have been made for the comfort of other residents of the city.

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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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.

We Need to Talk About Pedestrian Crossing’s Accessibility of San Francisco

We Need to Talk About Pedestrian Crossing’s Accessibility of San Francisco

We Need to Talk About Pedestrian Crossing’s Accessibility of San Francisco

 

Being a pedestrian in San Francisco is rough. In fact, it’s deadly. More vehicles than ever are on the road. Latest statistics show that 15 pedestrians were killed at an intersection in 2018. 55 were critically injured and 183 suffered severe injury from a motor vehicle. Pedestrians remain in proportion, particularly exposed road users but it is all the more true for blind and low vision people. In fact, have you ever wondered how do visually impaired people cross the road? 

If you live in San Francisco, a leading city that has long pride itself on inclusion, you are entitled to wonder if it is now implementing measures to provide for more safety and autonomy to those who cannot see. 

How inclusive and accessible is San Francisco now? This article provides for an overview of San Francisco’s policy towards blind pedestrian safety. 

 

Stats and facts about San Francisco pedestrian safety for blind people

San Francisco pedestrian safety infography blind people APS

With 797,300 people living with visual impairment in California, the State holds the record for having the highest number of people with visual disability of the United States. The Fog City itself has identified no less than 18,162 blind people that need help navigating streets.

If the city invests in the safety of its citizens including those with disabilities, intersection crashes continue to cause serious injuries and kill pedestrians every year.

San Francisco is made for walking: commitments to a Walkable City

 

When we talk about walking in the street, we inevitably talk about crossing them. As long as we stay on the sidewalk, in principle everything is fine. But the number of intersections in San Francisco was estimated at 18,525. Thus the probability of having to cross the sidewalk is high. Let’s add the 492,988 vehicles that plow the city every day. That’s when things get complicated.

For several years, the city of San Francisco has been following a process of gradual transformation based on the strong idea of ​​a shared use of public space, where all modes of travel have the same rights in the city. The goal is to restore the place to pedestrians by organizing a harmonious and safe cohabitation between them and the vehicles.

To translate this idea into practical reality, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is working on three ways to improve walking in San Francisco:

⊗ Pedestrian program

 ⊗ Pedestrian strategy

 ⊗ Vision Zero

With its slogan “San Francisco is a city that walks”, the SFMTA  is carrying out its Pedestrian Program including the School Safety Program to ensure safe route to school and quick effective measures turning intersections into safe areas such as: 

⊗ Red visibility curbs at 80 intersections

⊗ Painted safety zones at 40 intersections

⊗ Sidewalk bulbouts at 15 intersections

⊗ High visibility crosswalks at 200 intersections

⊗ Pedestrian headstart signal systems at 60 intersections

⊗ Advanced limit lines at 35 intersections 

To further lead people to choose to walk for most short trips, ex-mayor of San Francisco Edwin M. Lee has implemented the San Francisco Pedestrian Strategy in 2013. This action plan is broken down into various measures mainly impacting crosswalks such as:

⊗ Give extra crossing time at 800 intersections citywide, at least 160 annually

⊗ Re-open 20 closed crosswalks by 2021

⊗ Upgrade 13,000 curb ramps in the next 10 years

⊗ Install pedestrian countdown signals at 184 intersections by 2021

⊗ Target enforcement of high-risk behaviors (i.e., speeding, red-light running, failing to yield to pedestrians) on highinjury corridors and intersections, and report quarterly on injury collisions and enforcement

San Francisco is also part of the global Vision Zero movement. Its goal? Safer, more livable streets to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2024.

Latest Vision Zero end of year report shows that there is room for progress. To meet the 2024 ultimate goal, ex-Mayor Lee partnered with the SFMTA and Department of Public Health to present the WalkFirst program as part of Vision Zero global action plan.

By providing technical and statistical analysis of where and why pedestrian collisions occur in the city, the Vision Zero program is able to provide a roadmap of needed pedestrian safety projects for upcoming years. The City has leveraged $17 million for this project at 170 high-priority locations identified by WalkFirst.

San Francisco’s policy towards Accessible Pedestrian Signals

 

Our streets should be safe to everyone including the young ones, the elderly and the disabled. That is part of the definition of an inclusive city which is partially addressed in the city’s three programs presented above.

But San Francisco is going one step further.

To provide safety and autonomy for blind people when crossing the road, San Francisco has adopted a policy to implement Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) throughout the city.

An Accessible Pedestrian Signal (APS) is a pedestrian traffic light equipped with an audible and/or tactile signal that allows people with visual limitations to cross at an intersection. 

In a context where the multiplicity of vehicles using the roadway complicates the analysis of the circulation by the ear and where the tactile cues are not always implanted so as to constitute an effective marker, audio guidance on pedestrian traffic lights is a much-needed technology for visually impaired people.

Find out why Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) are a vital solution for the visually impaired in this article: How Do the Blind Safely Cross the Road?

 

2007: Accessible Pedestrian Signal Settlement Agreement

 

San Francisco was the first city in the United-States to address this critical pedestrian safety issue back in 2007.

In the Accessible Pedestrian Signal Settlement Agreement the city agreed to install at least 80 intersections with APS and to spend a minimum of $1.6 million on APS over a 2½-year period. The agreement also provides that the city will seek additional funding for more installations.

This agreement is the result of a successful multiyear advocacy campaign by the California Council of the Blind, the San Francisco LightHouse, and others. Before the campaign, only one intersection was equipped with Accessible Pedestrian Signals located at San Francisco State University. Using structured negotiations, members of the visually impaired community and the city jointly came to an agreement in 2007 that has resulted in the installations to date. 

 

2010: Accessible Pedestrian Signal program receives funds

 

In the span on the three years following the agreement, San Francisco has equipped 36 new intersections with APS (116 in total) making San Francisco the national leader on this important safety issue.

In 2010, the City received more than $200,000 in federal funds in order to equip 5 additional intersections with Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS).

2019: San Francisco APS state of play

 

According to the SFMTA last update in March 2019, 272 intersections of San Francisco are equipped with APS. The full list is available here. 83 other intersections are upon request by the public to have APS installed.

Regarding the installation policy, the agency publicly states on its website:

“SFMTA’s policy is to install APS at all new traffic signals, and at any existing signalized intersection that is undergoing a major signal upgrade.”

Considering all the undergoing and future roadworks of this constantly moving city, APS units should increase if the policy remains the same.

SFMTA also receives requests from users and local associations to install APS at specific intersections. Theses requests are subject of a prioritization according to those three criterias:

⊗ The relative priority of the requested intersection as compared to other requested intersections.

⊗ Whether any work is being planned at that intersection.

⊗ Whether an APS is likely to be installed within the next three years.

These prioritization criteria are intended to sort out user requests, which can not all be met due to limited funding.

So far San Francisco has been setting out the exemple for other worldwide cities in terms of pedestrian safety. However, only 1,47% of intersections are equipped with APS leaving scope for even greater commitments from the city. 

Also, it seems that SFMTA has been moving at a slow pace in the last two years when it comes to installing APS in the city. On an average, 17 new APS units have been installed since 2010 but it looks like this number is declining. Is San Francisco going to lose its leading position on the world’s accessibility podium? More than 18,000 blind San Franciscans are keeping a close eye on the project.

Want to go one step further? Find out all you need to know about APS regulation in Toronto.

 

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SFMTA’s policy is to install APS at all new traffic signals, and at any existing signalized intersection that is undergoing a major signal upgrade.

writer

Zoé Gervais

Zoé Gervais

Content Manager

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