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.

media

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.

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

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.

[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?

media

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

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

follow us!

more articles

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.

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’.

media

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

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

follow us!

more articles

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.

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…

media

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

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

follow us!

more articles

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.

How Does the City of Toronto By-law Secure Pedestrian Crossings For Blind People?

How Does the City of Toronto By-law Secure Pedestrian Crossings For Blind People?

How Does the City of Toronto By-law Secure Pedestrian Crossings For Blind People?

 

A previous article has rounded up the difficulties faced by blind and visually impaired Torontonian when crossing the street as well as the existing solutions to tackle them. This new article aims to enlighten on the regulations and initiatives in force at federal, provincial and municipal level.

We will give you all the keys to better understand the regulations in place and how it is possible to act in your own way.

 

Federal laws and organizations

All federal laws have been mentioned in a previous article: What Are the Regulations Concerning APS in Montreal?

In this article you will learn about:

⊗ Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) Final Guidelines for Accessible Pedestrian Signals

⊗ Bill C-81 : An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada

In addition, two state-funded associations play an major role in pedestrians’ accessibility:

⊗ The Centre for Active Transportation (CAT) with its program Complete Streets for Canada

⊗ The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) with its program Clearing our Path

The CAT – a project funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada – has initiated a program called Complete Streets for Canada. Its mission is to ensure transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire street network for all road users, not only motorists but also pedestrians of all ages and abilities.

 

As of January 2019, there are over 100 Complete Streets policies in Canada, in all 10 provinces. In addition to policies, Canadian cities are starting to produce Complete Streets guidelines, most notably in Toronto in 2016.

The Canadian federal government while playing a role in interprovincial transportation systems is not responsible for developing transportation policy at municipal level. However, the federal government can choose to play a role in funding transportation infrastructure and systems at provincial and municipal levels. 

Clearing our Path is a CNIB foundation designed to create accessible environments ­for people impacted by blindness. 

One of their main action is to facilitate street crossing to limit exposure to vehicular traffic by incenting the implementation of islands, raised pedestrian crossings and Accessible Pedestrian Signals.

 

Provincial regulation

 

Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC), 1962

 

The Ontario Human Rights Code aims at removing existing barriers due to disabilities and avoiding making new ones by designing inclusively:

“The Code protects people from discrimination and harassment because of past, present and perceived disabilities. Disability covers a broad range and degree of conditions, some visible and some not visible. A disability may have been present from birth, caused by an accident, or developed over time.”

 

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), 2005

 

The AODA advocated for a barrier-free society for Ontarians with disabilities.

Amongst other standards, the Ontario regulation 191/11 – Integrated Accessibility Standards section 80.28 – gives details about Accessible Pedestrian Signals characteristics and installation obligations:

“Where new traffic control signal systems with pedestrian control signals are being installed or existing pedestrian control signals are being replaced, the pedestrian control signals must meet the requirements for accessible pedestrian control signals.”

“Accessible pedestrian control signals must meet the following requirements:

⊗ They must have a locator tone that is distinct from a walk indicator tone.

⊗ They must be installed within 1,500 mm of the edge of the curb.

⊗ They must be mounted at a maximum of 1,100 mm above ground level.

⊗ They must have tactile arrows that align with the direction of crossing.

⊗ They must include both manual and automatic activation features.

⊗ They must include both audible and vibro-tactile walk indicators.”

 

How to blind people cross the street safely in Toronto, find out!

 

Municipal regulations and action plans

Toronto Accessibility Design Guidelines

 

The City of Toronto Accessibility Design Guidelines from 2004 regulates the design, planning and construction of accessible facilities and the preparation of accessibility audits.

Section 1.5.1 is dedicated to Accessible Pedestrian Signals:

⊗ “Signals at pedestrian crosswalks should be designed generally in accordance with requirements of the Highway Traffic Act and the Ontario Traffic Manual Book 12 – Traffic Signals.

⊗ Both audible and flashing crossing signals should be provided as an aid to persons who have hearing or visual limitations.

⊗ Audible pedestrian signals should be loud enough to be heard clearly above the ambient noise (i.e.: at least 15 decibels louder than ambient noise).

⊗ Two different audible pedestrian signals, identifying when it is safe to cross either direction, (as indicated by a separate tone) are required for persons with visual disabilities.

⊗ Where extended time is required to cross, (e.g., by seniors and persons with disabilities), a clearly marked pedestrian button should be available and mounted on a pole beside the curb cut, at a maximum height of 1065 mm. 

⊗ Tactile features should be provided as an aid to persons who have both hearing and vision limitations. (ie. A tactile or vibro-tactile feature on pushbuttons.)”

⊗ In locations frequently used by seniors or persons with disabilities, crossing timing should be provided to permit pedestrians, or wheelchair users to cross safely.” 

 

City of Toronto Corporate Accessibility Policy

The City of Toronto’s Accessibility Policy, adopted by Council on June 26, 2018, is a framework for compliance with the City’s commitments to accessibility and the requirements of AODA.

 

The City affirms its commitment to meet the requirements of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) and the Ontario Human Rights Code with 3 main actions:

⊗ The creation of a multi-year accessibility plan (MYAP)

⊗ Provide information about services for people with disabilities

⊗ Create a Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee to implement AODA locally

 

Toronto Vision Zero

 

The Vision Zero Road Safety Plan is an action plan focused on reducing traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries on Toronto’s streets. Launched in July 2016, the Plan prioritizes the safety of the most vulnerable road users through a range of initiatives including Accessible Pedestrian Signals, speed reduction and leading pedestrian intervals. 

In June 2018, Toronto’s council approved $13 million in funding for road safety measures to improve and accelerate the Vision Zero program in the years to come.

For more information on Vision Zero, read our article: Vision Zero a Revolutionary Approach to Road Safety.

 

Toronto complete street guidelines

Complete streets of Toronto – part of the Walk Toronto Program and the federal Complete streets program – is enabling people with special needs to cross with confidence. 

In August 2014, Toronto City Council adopted a Complete Streets policy and in January 2017, Toronto’s Complete Streets Guidelines were released.

Chapter 9 is dedicated to street design for intersections. It includes two accessible and universal design strategies to provide access, predictability, safety and convenience for everyone especially for blind and partially sighted people at intersections:

⊗ tactile warning surface indicators

⊗ accessible pedestrian signals

The City of Toronto, supported by provincial and federal regulations, is implementing many initiatives to help visually impaired people cross the street safely, including the implementation of APS.

Toronto’s Accessibility Policy that requires the installation of APS at all new crossroads and crossroads that are subject to major renovation allows the City to have 33% of its total signalized intersections equipped with APS systems which is fairly remarquable.

Will the city succeed in implementing its Vision Zero and Complete Street policy for the coming years? Will the number of APS continue to increase? This is the hope of the visually impaired community in Toronto.

media

The City of Toronto Accessibility Design Guidelines from 2004 regulates the design, planning and construction of accessible facilities and the preparation of accessibility audits:

⊗ Both audible and flashing crossing signals should be provided as an aid to persons who have hearing or visual limitations.

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

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.

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

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

follow us!

more articles

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.