At What Intersections Should You Install Accessible Pedestrian Signals?

At What Intersections Should You Install Accessible Pedestrian Signals?

Two intersections where accessible pedestrian signals are installed busy with pedestrians

At What Intersections Should You Install Accessible Pedestrian Signals?

 

When you install accessible pedestrian signals, you first need to ask yourself where exactly they are needed. Are there any intersections blind and visually impaired pedestrians particularly use? Where should accessible pedestrian signals be located?

The second question you need to consider is whether your APS meets the proper regulations. For this, you need to turn to the ADA and the requirements your state and/or city follows.

We’ll tell you what you need to pay attention to in order for your accessible pedestrian signals to be safe and useful for pedestrians with visual impairments.

Where to install accessible pedestrian signals?

This question is essential to make sure you install accessible pedestrian signals at the appropriate intersections: where they matter and where they are needed to ensure blind and visually impaired can get around.

There are 4 situations where accessible pedestrian signals need to be installed:

You’ll find more APS at large cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco…

The reason why is simple: these cities and their metropolitan areas are more likely to be accessible to meet the needs of blind and visually impaired people. 

Consequently, it makes sense people with vision disabilities favor cities where accessibility is better deployed instead of small cities or rural communities that would deprive them of their autonomy.

Blind and visually impaired people can request the installation of an accessible pedestrian signal.

If pedestrians with vision disabilities happen to frequently use the same route to get around, they can request the installation of an accessible pedestrian signal.

But it can be complicated as they first need to know who’s in charge of the intersection in question. As you know, it can be the department of traffic engineering, the county or the Department of Transportation…

In order to do that, they usually call the department of traffic engineering or public works of their city. Once they know who to specifically contact regarding traffic signals for the selected intersection, they can directly speak to this person.

If you happen to be this person on the line, make sure you’re familiar with the intersections you run. They’ll ask you about the policy you apply for your APS. For you, this means you need to explain to them clearly what it is in layman’s terms.

Maintaining good communication with blind and visually impaired people is key to ensure a trustworthy and open relationship. Make sure you listen to them so that they listen to you as well.

It’s even better if pedestrians have access to the APS policy directly on your website. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency chose to upload theirs for full transparency.

Accessible pedestrian signals are needed near organizations and schools for blind and visually impaired people.

Once again, APS are to be installed where they are useful for pedestrians with visual impairments. If there are areas where they’re more likely to be because of organizations or schools, they need to be able to know when they can safely cross the street.

This means activating the accessible pedestrian signals around their work or school.

You need to install accessible pedestrian signals at intersections where there are not enough non-visual indicators that enable pedestrians with vision disabilities to cross.

Blind and visually impaired people rely on tactile and auditory cues to apprehend their surroundings such as tactile paving with a visual contrast at the beginning of the crosswalk, the ambient sound of the traffic and accessible pedestrian signals in a best case scenario.

Find out more on the steps the visually impaired undertake to cross the street:

How Do the Blind Safely Cross the Road?

Blind and Visually Impaired People: What Are Their Difficulties When Crossing the Street?

Obviously, when intersections are very busy with vehicles, blind and visually impaired people are reassured when APS are installed.

But the same holds true for intersections with slow or rare traffic. Calm neighborhoods can actually pose a threat for their safety. 

After all, are they sure they can cross when they can’t hear a vehicle? What if there’s an electric car that’s just more silent than regular ones? What if there’s a distracted cyclist?

When traffic is busy, they can hear engines starting and tires squelching. When there’s absolutely no traffic noise, it can be deafening. It raises the alarm: is the intersection safe for them to cross?

With accessible pedestrian signals, they’re sure they can rely on the audible system. And cross the street when they have the right-of-way. 

Check out what cities have implemented to install APS at the perfect locations:

New York City Accessibility: Are Pedestrian Crossings Safe for Blind People?

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

We Need to Talk About the Pedestrian Crossings of San Francisco and Their Accessibility 

Is the intersection newly constructed or existing?

These cases share similarities but also differences. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to do in both situations.

Installing APS at newly constructed intersections

This is what you need to implement as required by the PROWAG and the MUTCD:

The accessible pedestrian signals are actuated with pushbuttons,

The WALK signal needs to provide audible and vibrotactile indications,

The WALK signal is emitted by tone or speech message,

When there’s a pedestrian pushbutton, you need to install a pushbutton locator tone,

The tactile arrow needs to indicate the direction of travel on the crossing.

Installing APS at existing intersections

Each existing intersection has its own particularities. We will not develop here every little action you need to undertake but just the general ones to remain vigilant.

You need to assess the typology of the intersection that needs to be retrofitted and the technical issues you may encounter. 

Does the intersection already have poles for the installation of accessible pedestrian signals? Do you need to add poles?

At first, you need to follow the new construction guidelines recommended by the ADA to make sure you implement useful and safe accessible pedestrian signals.

If it’s not technically possible, your role is to minimize any ambiguity there may be for blind and visually impaired pedestrians to have access to the appropriate audio information.

What to pay attention to when you install accessible pedestrian signals?

You need to focus on one thing: avoiding ambiguity for blind and visually impaired people. Unambiguous information could put them in danger and lead to accidents. 

This concerns several key points you need to pay attention to. Here are some of the important ones:

Pushbutton: its location needs to be accessible for blind and visually impaired pedestrians and wheelchair users.

WALK signal: the information needs to be clear, that is to say the audio information dubbing the visual WALK signal needs to signal the appropriate crossing.

Sound in the environment: make sure sound serves a purpose. Otherwise it’s just noise pollution for the residents and for pedestrians with visual impairments.

Volume of the accessible pedestrian signals: the point is for blind and visually impaired pedestrians to properly hear them. But they can’t be heard over the traffic sounds. Their volume needs to be set to a minimum of about 30 dB and a maximum of about 90 dB.

Of course, it depends on the intersection you’re installing APS at and its ambient sound. As you’re aware, some intersections are louder than others.

Every piece of equipment that enables signalized intersections to have accessible pedestrian signals needs to be studied and designed to meet the needs of the visually impaired.

Keep in mind that accessible pedestrian signals are key to ensure pedestrians with visual impairments a seamless mobility chain. This is what enables them to get around in the city.

The dubbing of traffic lights serves as audio signage to guide them from one point of the crossing to another. 

When you install accessible pedestrian signals, you’re not only following accessibility guidelines for vulnerable pedestrians, you provide them with more autonomy and safety. Thanks to APS, they can go to work or go shopping by themselves.

Want to know more about accessible pedestrian signals? Check out these articles:

How Accessible Are the Audible Pedestrian Pushbuttons of Your Crossings?

Why Should Your Accessible Pedestrian Signals Have a Guiding Sound Corridor?

Published on June 17th, 2022

media

An accessible pedestrian signal installed with a pushbutton. The sign on the pole says: "Don’t push the button. Pedestrian crossing now automated. Wait for WALK signal before crossing".

When you install accessible pedestrian signals, you’re not only following accessibility guidelines for vulnerable pedestrians, you provide them with more autonomy and safety.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

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.

Blind and Visually Impaired Pedestrians: What Are Their Difficulties When Crossing the Street?

Blind and Visually Impaired Pedestrians: What Are Their Difficulties When Crossing the Street?

Several pedestrians waiting for the WALK signal at a crossing in Chicago

Blind and Visually Impaired Pedestrians: What Are Their Difficulties When Crossing the Street?

 

Blind and visually impaired pedestrians can face many obstacles and challenges when they navigate the streets, especially for crossing them. 

Abled pedestrians cross the street in an automatic way without even thinking about it. They simply check out the color of the traffic lights and start walking as soon as the green man appears.

They “just” have to be careful when crossing the street by checking if a car is coming. For blind and visually impaired pedestrians, being careful is a state of mind. It never leaves them.

Because as soon as they step foot outside, the world can easily become inhospitable. But if you become aware of their struggles and issues, you’ll be able to make sure they can safely cross the streets of your city.

There are solutions that enable blind and visually impaired pedestrians to feel less anxious when crossing the street. First, let’s see what actions they need to take to safely cross the street.

1. Locate the beginning of the crossing

This actually represents the most challenging action for blind and visually impaired pedestrians. 

They more or less know where they stand on the intersection. Other pedestrians rely on visual cues to spot the desired crossing and go towards it. But how can they know where the crossing begins?

They can rely on a locator tone that constantly emits sound.

The locator tone is used as an audio signage: it helps blind and visually impaired pedestrians find the beginning of the crossing.

Unfortunately, not all intersections are equipped with one. So what can they do when there’s no locator tone?

Either people with visual impairments are already familiar with the intersection and they know where the crossing begins. They may have tips like counting steps. 

Or they can focus on the ambient sound: traffic with cars coming and going, people talking while waiting their turn to cross…

They can also ask another pedestrian to tell them where the crossing is.

2. Press the pushbutton 

People with vision disabilities have now found the beginning of the crossing. But to know when they have the right-of-way, they need to actuate the accessible pedestrian signals.

This means finding the pushbutton on the pole. Pushbutton-integrated APS are indeed very common in the U.S. 

How Accessible Are the Audible Pedestrian Pushbuttons of Your Crossings?

If the pushbutton is equipped with a locator tone then that’s easy. But if there’s no locator tone, they can just feel around to know where exactly it’s located on the pole. There’s no other specific beacon that can help blind and visually impaired pedestrians. 

A vibrotactile arrow pointing in the direction of travel on the crosswalk is required on all APS. It’s directly installed on the pushbutton. But be aware that the alignment information isn’t accurate enough for blind and visually impaired pedestrians.

When the WALK sign is on, the arrow vibrates to dub the audio information from the accessible pedestrian signals. This is particularly helpful for deafblind pedestrians.

However in times of COVID-19, touching surfaces that may be contaminated can be dangerous for all pedestrians. 

How Can Accessible Pedestrian Signals Become Responsive to COVID-19?

3. Rely on the accessible pedestrian signals

The accessible pedestrian signals are now activated. They provide audio information when the WALK signal is on. 

Since they dub the warning traffic lights, their role is key. For them to properly work, they need to provide:

High-quality sound,

Clear information with the street name of the intersection,

Minimum volume of about 30 dB and a maximum volume of about 90 dB.

It’s to be noted that accessible pedestrian signals can’t be 5 dB louder than ambient sound.

When installers set up accessible pedestrian signals, they need to take into account the ambient sound when traffic is busy to make sure it perfectly matches real conditions.

Consequently, their volume depends on the intersections and their traffic.

The point is for blind and visually impaired people to properly hear the audio information provided without covering ambient sound. 

Ambient sound actually helps them understand how the intersection is (if it’s long, busy with fellow pedestrians or cyclists…).

4. Get to the other side of the crossing

The WALK sign is on and the accessible pedestrian signal is dubbing it to let blind and visually impaired pedestrians know they can cross the street.

At this point, the goal is to walk straight without going off course. Two elements explain this:

The need to avoid bumping into other pedestrians,

The need to easily get across the street and arrive safely at the other side of the crossing.

One way to help them cross the street more easily is to set up a guiding sound corridor directly integrated in the accessible pedestrian signals.

With such a system, both APS from both sides of the crossing simultaneously broadcast audio information while blind and visually impaired pedestrians are crossing the street.

The guiding sound corridor wraps up them. They just have to follow the sound to easily reach the other side. It truly helps them walk straight. 

Why Should Your Accessible Pedestrian Signals Have a Guiding Sound Corridor?

5. Rely on auditory cues

What happens when there’s no audible pedestrian signal? That’s actually more and more frequent as many cities decide to promote active mobility and encourage public transit.

One of their actions in doing so is to remove traffic lights. For blind and visually impaired pedestrians, this puts them at risk as accessible pedestrian signals are removed as well.

Consequently, cities need to guarantee their safety. It’s not because there’s no APS that they can’t remain autonomous and fully enjoy the city. 

There are other auditory cues that can help people with vision disabilities cross the street. In Rouen, France, the city has installed audio beacons on poles at an intersection with a bus rapid transit system (BRT). 

Blind and visually impaired pedestrians activate on demand the audio beacons with a remote control or a smartphone app so that they know where the crossing is located. 

This system, created by French leading accessibility company Okeenea, uses flashing lights on top of the poles to alert motorists of the presence of vulnerable pedestrians.

Removing Traffic Lights on Bus Rapid Transit Intersections: Installation of Audio Beacons for Pedestrians with a Visual Impairment

Thanks to this innovative system, people with vision disabilities can still navigate this intersection despite the removal of traffic lights. Unfortunately, if there’s no audible markings, blind and visually impaired pedestrians tend to avoid this type of place.

6. Navigate their way among active mobility as blind and visually impaired pedestrians 

We’ve just mentioned active mobility and there’s another situation that can be difficult to apprehend for blind and visually impaired pedestrians: shared streets.

Areas with different means of transport and active mobility: cyclists, scooters, motorists, streetcars… 

How to Make Shared Streets Truly Shared by All?

In this situation where traffic lights and accessible pedestrian signals are missing, pedestrians with visual impairments need to be able to navigate in a “comfort zone”.

It consists in creating an obstacle-free pedestrian route. The goal is to enable all pedestrians to move around safely. In a comfort zone, pedestrians don’t run the risk of colliding with other users.

You now know 6 situations that can potentially be difficult for blind and visually impaired pedestrians while crossing the street. And you also have accessibility guidelines to make their mobility easier. 

Want to know more about accessible pedestrian signals? Check out these articles:

Everything You Need to Know About Accessible Pedestrian Signals Regulation in New York City

How Cities in America Communicate Efficiently About Accessible Pedestrian Signals: Good Examples to Follow

How Do the Blind Safely Cross the Road?

Published on June 3rd, 2022

media

An audible pedestrian pushbutton with "push button, wait for WALK signal" written on it for blind and visually impaired pedestrians

The point is for blind and visually impaired people to properly hear the audio information provided by the APS without covering ambient sound.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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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.

What Is a Phygital Experience and How Can It Improve the Accessibility of Your Venue?

What Is a Phygital Experience and How Can It Improve the Accessibility of Your Venue?

A blind woman benefits from the phygital experience of a venue. She follows tactile guide paths and uses the indoor navigation app Evelity to find her bearings.

What Is a Phygital Experience and How Can It Improve the Accessibility of Your Venue?

 

Have you ever come across the term “phygital experience”? It consists in building a bridge between the digital world and the physical world to offer users a unique interactive experience. 

Seeing that the digital world takes more and more space in our lives, you’ll soon be more familiar with phygital experiences. They can take place in all aspects of our everyday lives to make them easier: shopping malls, museums, intersections…

But there’s a category of people for whom phygital experiences aren’t just “regular” experiences. Indeed, for people with disabilities, they represent accessibility improvement. Phygital experiences actually combine the best of both worlds to remove accessibility barriers and foster inclusion. 

Let’s see what shapes phygital experiences can take to improve accessibility!

What is the meaning of phygital experience?

First, we need to understand what the concept of phygital is exactly. The word blends “physical” and “digital” to demonstrate how phygital combines both worlds. 

Phygital uses technology to connect the digital world with the physical world. The goal is to provide users with a unique and interactive experience. 

To put it simply, technology is a means at the service of users. It is anchored in the physical world to provide them with a little extra via digital solutions. 

Phygital is like a bridge interlinking both worlds for the benefit of users.

Example of a phygital experience

A perfect example of a phygital experience is the game “Pokémon GO”. Maybe you’ve chased Pokémons yourself or you’ve seen people looking ridiculous in catching ‘em all but having a lot of fun. 

The game, launched in 2016, used augmented and virtual reality and also geolocation so that users could catch Pokémons nearby with their smartphones. 

People just needed their smartphone’s camera and their GPS to chase Pokémons and increase their collection. Pokémons were at grabs near their place of work, bus stop, the streets…, everywhere around them.

This game created a whole new social and phygital experience. Users could be easily recognized as they were alone with their smartphones. But it didn’t prevent them from sharing tips between them about where to find the little monsters they all loved. 

They could all meet in the real world and not just behind a screen from the comfort of their home. Thus creating an interactive phygital experience.

What does a phygital experience entail for people with disabilities?

Through phygital experiences, accessibility and inclusion can go further. 

As you may already know, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) aims at preventing any form of discrimination against people with disabilities. It lists a series of requirements for all places of our everyday lives to be accessible to them: public venues, crossings with accessible pedestrian signals, places of work for employees with disabilities, public transportation, housing… 

But there may be limitations at what’s possible to achieve in terms of physical accessibility in complex infrastructures. Especially the ones that were built in the previous century. It may not be possible to refurbish a very old infrastructure as it would be too costly.

That’s the case of the New York City subway. It first operated in 1904. At that time, accessibility wasn’t considered when it was designed. Today, users with disabilities bear the consequences of such a lack of accessibility.

The Big Apple’s rapid transit is committed to improving accessibility. The MTA has even turned towards innovation to achieve this goal.

How Innovation Promises to Revolutionize Accessibility in the New York City Subway

In addition to planning the installation of physical accessibility equipment like elevators or access ramps, the MTA is currently testing the indoor navigation app Evelity for users with disabilities at the Jay St-MetroTech station

This app has especially been conceived to meet the needs of people with disabilities. It adapts to every user’s profile. 

This means that for wheelchair users, Evelity provides step-free routes. For blind and visually impaired people, the app provides step by step instructions thanks to their screen reader. 

In this situation, users with disabilities benefit from a phygital experience when using the subway. An experience tailored to their needs and capabilities. They have the best of both worlds in terms of accessibility.

Indeed, users with disabilities improve their mobility and still remain autonomous.

A phygital experience like this one enables them to have a more complete access to public transit. Especially in cases when technical or topographic barriers prevent it to be accessible to all through physical equipment. 

What are the benefits of implementing a phygital experience at your venue?

There are many benefits in creating an interactive phygital experience for people with disabilities:

Going further than the requirements of the ADA to be fully accessible.

Putting technology at the service of users with disabilities. It’s just a means to an end.

Having access to services. For example, the app Evelity provides geolocated cultural content in a museum in addition to navigation instructions.

Focusing on use and not just accessibility requirements and regulations. The goal is to be in the user’s shoes to understand their needs. But also how they walk around in a venue and how they use the equipment and services.

Giving users with disabilities back their rightful place in our society. People with disabilities are all around us. Plus, this doesn’t just concern the 61 million Americans with disabilities but all of us. It’s an opportunity to foster inclusion.

Check out a unique perspective on inclusion with this interview of Gabrielle Halpern, Doctor of philosophy:

Should We Say “Hybridization” or “Inclusion” Regarding People with Disabilities?

In what situations can a phygital experience enhance accessibility and inclusion?

Just like the ADA is enacted for all areas of our lives, phygital experiences can take place in each and one of them as well.

Pedestrians with disabilities

Let’s start with getting around in the city. When you’re blind or visually impaired, how can you know you’re in the right direction? 

Tokyo in Japan has responded to this question using tenji blocks. 

This consists of yellow tactile guide paths with a QR code. This tactile paving signage helps blind and visually impaired people get around at crossings, inside subway stations and in front of public venues. 

Round bumps indicate a traffic light, a train station entrance or the end of a platform and their parallel lines help them find their way.

The color yellow is important as it enlightens a visual contrast and thus can be better perceived by the visually impaired. 

Since the 1960s, blind and visually impaired people in Japan have been using this system. But it has been updated to help them find their bearings more easily: an app that scans QR codes set on tenji blocks was created.

Thanks to the shikAI app, people with vision disabilities can know where tenji blocks lead to and the remaining traveling distance.

Once again, it’s the combination of physical equipment and a digital solution that improves the accessibility of a city.

Users with disabilities

We’ve mentioned earlier Evelity for the New York City subway and its riders with disabilities. 

But such indoor navigation apps can be used at all types of complex public venues: shopping malls, hospitals, smart buildings, city halls, colleges and universities

Whether with old or new buildings, using technology to alleviate accessibility barriers can make a difference for people with disabilities. 

Phygital experiences provide them with the same opportunities as anybody else. They can go anywhere and have access to all services. There’s no limitation any longer. And all doors are and remain open.

Visitors with disabilities

Museums have always been dedicated to bringing culture to all, including people with disabilities. They’ve installed access ramps and lowered works of art for wheelchair visitors. They’ve provided tactile models so that blind and visually impaired people could touch them…

All these actions make art accessible. But museums have also turned to new technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality to both be accessible and provide their visitors with a unique interactive phygital experience.

For example, the Salle des Verres at the Louvre museum in Paris has chosen Tactile Studio, a French inclusive design agency promoting arts and culture for all, to create a phygital experience for their visitors.

It consists of a model of one of Henry II’s palaces capturing all the rooms and their furniture. It’s also equipped with a “sensitive” console for visitors to interact with the different rooms thanks to an interactive lighting system.

With this “sensitive” console, visitors can know more about the rooms of the palace and their history. They can also locate themselves in the palace.

This console acts as a mediation station: it has informative texts and pictograms for each room with infrared sensors. Visitors just have to pass their hand over the sensors to light up the rooms.

But there’s more: a sensory station with tactile and sonic exploration. The tactile orientation map for visitors enables them to find their location and the location of the artwork as it was during Henry II’s reign. 

Blind and visually impaired visitors can touch a model of a warrior’s helmet and immerse themselves in this artwork. They also have Braille texts with additional information.

All of this enables visitors with disabilities to immerse themselves in the France of Henry II and to interact with artworks. 

How to Make Museums More Accessible for People with Disabilities?

Another museum has also chosen a phygital experience for their visitors with disabilities: the Maison Victor Hugo in Paris, dedicated to the famous French writer.

Once again, we have Evelity, the indoor navigation app. But here, it does more than just guide visitors with disabilities from exhibitions to exhibitions. It also provides them with geolocated mediation content

Evelity also works as a guide providing visitors with explanations on the works they meet during their course.

A unique experience in order to better discover and understand the artworks. A successful and complete access to culture!

With phygital experiences, people with disabilities can step into a new world. A world where they can benefit from physical equipment and digital solutions to interact, find their way, learn, touch, hear and see. This enhances accessibility and inclusion of venues and places whatever they are. 

Phygital is a concept that can revolutionize their place in our society. They don’t have to be passive and be accompanied to go to a place. They can master their actions and mobility.

Want to know what technology can do to make the lives of people with disabilities easier? Check out these articles:

Artificial Intelligence and Accessibility: Examples of a Technology That Serves People with Disabilities

The Smartphone: a Revolution for the Blind and Visually Impaired!

Disability as an Innovation Driver for the Smart City

Published on May 20th, 2022

media

A blind man uses the app Evelity to get around in the subway

Phygital experiences provide users with disabilities with the same opportunities as anybody else. They can go anywhere and have access to all services. There’s no limitation any longer. And all doors are and remain open.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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share our article!

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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 Are the Audible Pedestrian Pushbuttons of Your Crossings?

How Accessible Are the Audible Pedestrian Pushbuttons of Your Crossings?

People crossing the street in New York City after pushing the button for the WALK signal

How Accessible Are the Audible Pedestrian Pushbuttons of Your Crossings?

Actuating audible pedestrian pushbuttons is the first step to crossing the street safely. They provide blind and visually impaired users audible information about the WALK and DON’T WALK signals. According to the signal, pedestrians know when it’s their turn to cross and when they need to wait.

Pushbutton-integrated accessible pedestrian signals are very common in the U.S. but how do audible pedestrian pushbuttons work exactly? What are the requirements for such a system? Does it properly meet the needs of the visually impaired? Is it really the best accessible solution for them?

Let’s unveil everything there is to know about audible pedestrian pushbuttons to make your city truly accessible and safe!

What are the benefits and disadvantages of audible pedestrian pushbuttons?

We’ve composed a list to help you comprehend what audible pedestrian pushbuttons do for blind and visually impaired pedestrians and the city itself.

Benefits

Disadvantages

Presence of a locator tone to indicate the beginning of the crosswalk.

Not all pushbuttons are equipped with one.

For those that are, this means continual noise pollution in the neighborhood.

Speakers integrated in the pushbutton: the sound information goes directly where users are standing.

It’s more an issue that may rise than a disadvantage but the volume of the speakers needs to be adjusted according to the ambient sound.

The pushbutton can be easily activated for people with mobility impairments. And its required height makes it easier for blind and visually impaired people to locate it on the pole. 

In times of COVID-19, touching surfaces may contribute to the spreading of the virus. At the peak of the pandemic, many cities had to deactivate the pushbuttons of their APS.

The pushbutton simultaneously serves 2 purposes when actuated: 

It signalizes that pedestrians want to cross the street.

It provides audio information about the WALK/DON’T WALK signal for blind and visually impaired pedestrians.

There must be a high number of times when the pushbutton is activated by regular pedestrians who probably don’t need the audible information associated with it. Thus creating unnecessary noise pollution.

As you can see, audible pedestrian pushbuttons have their pros and their cons. Does the system work? Yes, it does: it helps blind and visually impaired users cross the street. 

How Do the Blind Safely Cross the Road?

But is there room for improvement regarding accessibility? Again, the answer is yes. Because you may have perceived it: one of the most challenging aspects of audible pedestrian pushbuttons is locating the crosswalk in the first place.

For people with vision disabilities, finding the beginning of the crosswalk can be difficult. Especially at intersections they’re not familiar with. How can you find the crosswalk and the pole where the pushbutton is installed when you can’t see? Yet, this step is necessary to activate the accessible pedestrian signals.

Seeing that the locator tones may not be found at all intersections, blind and visually impaired pedestrians may need extra help. Or another system. 

That’s where aBeacon steps in. It’s a third generation accessible pedestrian signal which means it can be used with or without being connected to pushbuttons. As cities and all categories of pedestrians are used to push the button to actuate the APS, it doesn’t affect their everyday lives. 

However, with aBeacon, users can activate it remotely with a remote control or a smartphone app. This enables them to rely on sound information to locate the beginning of the crosswalk.

Plus, the smartphone activation helps them find their bearings as they can select which crossing to activate in the destination menu. No risk of ending up on the wrong side of the avenue! After all, 89% of people with vision disabilities use a smartphone.

Such innovation can be a real asset for cities that want to be more connected. And that’s exactly what New York City has been experiencing. A Brooklyn intersection is currently testing aBeacon and the first user feedback is positive.

The aBeacon devices from both sides of the crossing are simultaneously activated to create a guiding sound corridor. It helps pedestrians with vision disabilities to cross without going off course. It works as a beacon for them.

Its high quality of sound and easy activation have been appreciated by blind and visually impaired pedestrians.

Why is aBeacon a Game Changer Regarding Accessible Pedestrian Signals?

An activation on demand dramatically reduces noise pollution for the neighborhoods as the residents living close by the equipped intersection in Brooklyn have been experiencing it. aBeacon is activated only by pedestrians who need it to cross. 

For all cities, these benefits are priceless. And this makes their crossings safe, accessible and as pleasant as they can be for all users. 

In addition, aBeacon can also collect data on the number of times it has been activated to let blind and visually impaired pedestrians cross the street. This can help cities better understand the needs of their visually impaired citizens when they’re getting around.

How do audible pedestrian pushbuttons work?

You already know that the point of accessible pedestrian signals is to dub the visual information related to traffic lights and their WALK / DON’T WALK signs. 

They provide audio information to let pedestrians with vision disabilities know when they can safely cross the street and when they need to wait. 

Locator tone

As mentioned above, locator tones don’t equip all intersections. They enable the visually impaired to know the pole location. 

Their volume isn’t high but their sound is continuous. Actually, their intensity depends on the ambient sound. 

According to the MUTCD, locator tones have a duration of 0.15 seconds or less, and shall repeat at 1-second intervals.

Vibrotactile arrow

Once blind and visually impaired pedestrians have reached the source of the sound emitted by the locator tone, they just need to locate the vibrotactile arrow on the pushbutton.

This tactile arrow points in the direction of travel on the crosswalk to guide pedestrians. To better serve its purpose, it needs to be installed within the width of the crosswalk or very near it and near the curb line. 

It also vibrates during the WALK signal in addition to the sound information emitted by the accessible pedestrian signals. This is particularly helpful for deafblind pedestrians as they rely on their sense of touch.

Pushbutton 

In the United States, many cities use pushbutton-integrated accessible pedestrian signals. This means that by pushing the button on the pole, visually impaired pedestrians actuate the APS. And other pedestrians signal their presence at the crossing.

In order to distinguish between both uses, to trigger the audible pedestrian pushbutton, blind and visually impaired people need to push the button for more than one second. If they press it a second time, they can hear the sound information again.

They have information on the signalization of the traffic lights but also on the street name they’re about to cross. 

When the button is pushed, traffic lights control is aware that a pedestrian is waiting to cross the street. It allows them to have long enough time to safely get across.

Pushbuttons actually serve two different purposes.

Speakers

With audible pedestrian pushbuttons, the speakers are integrated into them so that the sound information is broadcasted directly to where the pedestrians are waiting.

To conceive accessible intersections for blind and visually impaired people, you need to know everything that composes accessible pedestrian signals, including pushbuttons.

What are the requirements for audible pedestrian pushbuttons?

Three different laws and regulations run the requirements and guidelines of audible pedestrian pushbuttons:

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): this law aims at preventing any type of discrimination agains people with disabilities. Here, it requires accessible pedestrian signals to convey audio information to blind and visually impaired people. The emphasis is put on providing them with the same information as other pedestrians so that they can cross the street safely and with complete autonomy.

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD): manual created by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). It concerns the installation and use of accessible pedestrian signals and what interests here: audible pedestrian pushbuttons.

The Proposed Accessibility Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right-of-Way (PROWAG): as the name indicates, they are guidelines reviewed by an independent federal agency, the Access Board. Their goal is to enforce accessibility laws and provide technical assistance about APS.

Here are the main requirements for the location of audible pedestrian pushbuttons you need to know:

Within easy reach and easily activated (including for wheelchair users),

Located at a mountain height of approximately 3.5 feet above the sidewalk (but no more than 4 feet),

Located near each end of the crosswalks,

Positioned between 1.5 and 6 feet from the edge of the curb or pavement but no further than 10 feet from the edge of the curb.

Positioned with their face parallel to the crosswalk to be used,

Obvious regarding the crosswalk they’re associated with.

Please note that if the pushbuttons on a corner can’t be separated by at least 10 feet, they can be installed on the same pole. But they both need vibrotactile arrows to each indicate the direction of travel and have a speech message for the WALK signal.

What’s essential in this situation is to avoid any sort of confusion for blind and visually impaired pedestrians. They need to know which audible pedestrian pushbutton to actuate in order to reach their destination.

But again, this may still be confusing for those who aren’t familiar with this type of intersection. That’s the reason why this situation is an exception and not the standard. It’s best to avoid it if possible as pedestrians may encounter difficulties on how to apprehend the intersection. 

They may feel like they’re not safe. If it happens to be the case, a lot of vulnerable pedestrians tend to find a different route in order to avoid a difficult and stressful intersection. How would you feel if you had to walk longer just to be safe?

You now have a glimpse into audible pedestrian pushbuttons, their use and their requirements to be accessible for blind and visually impaired pedestrians. As you can see, pushbuttons work since they activate APS but locating them and the poles they’re on remain one of the most challenging issues for users with vision disabilities. 

You need to ask yourself how accessible pushbuttons are and what can you do to improve this system. It may be the perfect time to try an innovation like New York City has done.

Want to know more about pedestrian safety? Check out these articles: 

Everything You Need to Know About Accessible Pedestrian Signals Regulation in New York City

Pedestrian Safety: Are Your Crossings Safe for Visually Impaired and Blind People? 

Removing Traffic Lights vs Pedestrian Safety: a Guide to Inclusive Streets

Published on May 6th, 2022

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An audible pedestrian signal with "push button, wait for walk signal" written on it

For people with vision disabilities, finding the beginning of the crosswalk can be difficult. Especially at intersections they’re not familiar with. How can you find the crosswalk and the pole where the pushbutton is installed when you can’t see?

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Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

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.

The Number of People with Disabilities in the Workforce Is Rising: How to Include Them and Increase the Performance of Your Company?

The Number of People with Disabilities in the Workforce Is Rising: How to Include Them and Increase the Performance of Your Company?

A certain number of people with disabilities having a meeting in their offices

The Number of People with Disabilities in the Workforce Is Rising: How to Include Them and Increase the Performance of Your Company?

 

The number of people with disabilities in the US is already worrying: 61 million American adults. What does our society do to be more accessible to them? If there are more and more people with disabilities, is it enough? 

Because yes, the number of people with disabilities is indeed increasing, not just in the United States but in the whole world. And some of them are already active members of our society in the sense that they’re part of the labor force. What are the causes of this increase? How can we make the lives of employees with disabilities easier? In what way can they increase the performance of your company? 

You’ll see that each and every one of us could be concerned about disability at some point in our lives. But having a disability can help your company grow! 

What causes the number of people with disabilities in the workforce to rise?

To clarify, by workforce and labor force, we comprehend all people engaged in or available for work. This means that employees and unemployed people are part of the workforce.

Let’s first analyze what leads to disability to better assess how to enhance accessibility in a work environment.

The COVID-19 pandemic

We probably all know someone who’s had a symptom that lasted longer than 6 months after being affected by COVID-19. Apparently, this concerns about one-third of people who’ve had mild cases of COVID-19. We now talk of “long COVID”.

This means they may have experienced stroke, hypertension or fatigue symptoms. Plus, the lockdowns that took place also affected our mental health. Because of how pretty much the world stopped in 2020, including relaxation activities such as going on holidays or visiting friends and families, anxiety, depression and even PTSD thrived and have been thriving. After all, we’re still going through this pandemic and it looks like it’s becoming more and more part of our everyday lives.

Mental health issues are not to be discarded. Their impact is serious on our well-being and our functioning as individuals and as employees. Plus, they’re considered as invisible disabilities, that is to say that people may not seem like they live with a disability at first. It’s only when they’re facing a difficult or challenging situation that their disability is more obvious.

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

As you can see, long COVID-19 can result in having an invisible disability that can deeply affect people and their work lives. This can lead to sick leaves, to feeling more stressed at work, to having to deal with mental health issues, to having to declare to their employer they have a disability and that they need an adapted workstation…

People with vision disabilities in the next future

According to studies funded by the National Eye Institute, the number of people with vision disabilities in the U.S. will double to more than 8 million by 2050.

The same holds true for the number of legally blind Americans: it will also double to reach 2 million. 

How come these figures will soon double? It’s mostly due to untreated eye problems and an aging population. A lack of glasses, contacts or surgery to help with nearsightedness or farsightedness could lead to a visual impairment in the long run. Thus, access to health is vital to avoid vision loss. Even diabetes-related eye complications may lead to vision disabilities. 

That’s why it’s important for those vulnerable to have their vision regularly checked. But once again, this means accessing health. We need doctors, eye specialists, in our cities and in our rural regions, that are affordable.

Visual impairments and aging are linked since people 80 years and over are considered to be the most affected by blindness and visual disability. Due to their age, they may be more prone to eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataract and macular degeneration. 

But if a blind person is provided with the adequate equipment, a Braille display or Braille terminal with an embedded Braille keyboard, they can still work and have a long and fulfilling career, just like everybody else.

An increasing elderly population

In 2030, there’ll be more people 65 years and older than children in the United States, according to the US Census Bureau projections. We already mentioned that this category of population is more likely to develop vision disabilities but that’s not all. 

The elderly may also have mobility impairments which can lead to the necessity of using one or two canes or even a wheelchair or mobility scooter.

As we’re getting older, we all may at some point have to deal with some of these issues. A lot of elderly people have several impairments. For example, a person can have difficulties walking or standing up and have Alzheimer’s disease at the same time.

Depending on your year of birth, in the United States, you can have your full retirement benefits at 66 or 67 years old. But what will your health be like at that age? Will your workplace still be suitable for you and the needs you may have at a later age?

Additional facts and figures on the number of people with disabilities in the workforce

⊗  In 2021, there were 1.2 million more people with disabilities compared to 2020 (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

⊗  496,000 of them participate in the labor force.

⊗  65% of this additional 1.2 million employees with disabilities are under 65 years old.

⊗  Employees with disabilities with low-wages are more affected by the pandemic.

How to make workplaces accessible for people with disabilities?

Now that you know the number of people with disabilities in the workforce is indeed rising, the question that you need to ask yourself is what can I do to make their workplace suitable, accessible and friendly for them?

Removing accessibility barriers at workplaces rests on 3 key principles. 

Improve the physical accessibility of your workplace

What does physical accessibility stand for? It simply means making the building itself accessible so that your employees with disabilities can easily access it and get around within it.

⊗  Parking spaces for people with reduced mobility,

⊗  Access ramps,

⊗  Audio beacon at the entrance,

⊗  Large doors and halls,

⊗  Secured stairs with handrails and contrasting non-slip stairs,

⊗  Elevators and/or escalators,

⊗  Tactile guide paths,

⊗  Audio beacons at main rooms (meeting rooms, offices, canteens, toilets…)

⊗  Accessible toilets,

⊗  Pictograms,

⊗  Indoor navigation app…

Put yourself in a person with disabilities’ shoes and picture what they may struggle with. What are their needs? How can your workplace adapt to them? If your offices are particularly large and complex, like a business tower for example, your employees with disabilities may struggle to find their bearings.

That’s why an indoor navigation app like Evelity could be the perfect solution to suit their needs. This app adapts to every user’s profile. This means that a person using a wheelchair can set up the app so that it selects a step-free route. And a blind or visually impaired person can use it by setting it up with their smartphone’s screen reader. Thus, the app provides them with step-by-step audio instructions.

After all, 89% of blind and visually impaired people use a smartphone. It has revolutionized their mobility.

Evelity now equips the JaySt-MetroTech subway station in New York City, the Victor Hugo museum in Paris, France and the entire metro network in Marseilles, also France. What about your workplace?

Provide your employees with disabilities with accessible equipment

Now that your building is accessible, you need to focus on the workstation of your employees with disabilities. What type of equipment or adjustment do they need to work?

⊗  Adjusted work hours,

⊗  Assistive technology (Braille display, large-print and tactile keyboards, amplified telephone equipment, audio induction loops, seating and positioning devices…),

⊗  Instant transcription apps for the deaf and hearing impaired like Ava,

⊗  Calm and quiet spaces for people with intellectual disabilities and people on the autism spectrum…

Once again, it all depends on the needs of your employees with disabilities, the type of their work and how adapted their workstation can be. 

Cultivate inclusion for all to meet the needs of the number of people with disabilities working at your company

There’s no workplace more attractive than a workplace that favors and celebrates inclusion for all. Because you know that employees with various backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, skills and abilities are an asset for your company:

⊗  Outperformances,

⊗  Cutting edge and more innovating initiatives,

⊗  Higher employee retention rates,

⊗  Higher profits…

You can read McKinsey’s analysis and report on the subject:

Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters

But how can you cultivate inclusion for all exactly? You can start by showing up for your employees with disabilities. This means that you can provide all your staff with training in dealing and communicating with people with disabilities. And participate in it yourself whether you’re the CEO of a big company or a small business owner. 

We all may be afraid to say the wrong thing. Usually, we’re tempted to avoid talking to a person with disabilities because we’re not familiar enough with their needs and don’t know what to do. 

If that’s your case, you can dive into this series of articles to know how to address people with disabilities:

6 Tips to Communicate with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

8 Tips to Welcome a Person with a Physical Disability

9 Tips to Welcome a Person with an Intellectual Disability

12 Tips to Welcome a Deaf or Hard of Hearing Person 

With the proper training, ALL of your employees will feel comfortable, seen and heard. This will favor team spirit and team building.

As the number of people with disabilities in the workforce is rising, you’ll find yourself in need of implementing permanent accessibility solutions. They will bring them comfort and help them work without having to adapt or overadapt. And in the end, your company will benefit from having a diverse and inclusive workforce. 

Additional source:

COVID-19 Likely Resulted in 1.2 Million More Disabled People by the End of 2021 – Workplaces and Policy Will Need to Adapt

Want to know how our cities can adapt to the rise in the number of people with disabilities and new accessibility issues? Check out these articles:

How Can Accessible Pedestrian Signals Become Responsive to COVID-19?

Disability as an Innovation Driver for the Smart City

Creating an Accessible and Barrier-Free Society Through Inclusive Design: a Constant Renewal

Published on 22nd April, 2022

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Employees working in a business tower

If your offices are particularly large and complex, like a business tower for example, your employees with disabilities may struggle to find their bearings.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

share our article!

more articles

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

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.