Accessibility Data Collection: a Huge Challenge for Cities and Transit Networks

Accessibility Data Collection: a Huge Challenge for Cities and Transit Networks

The United States seen from orbit

Accessibility Data Collection: a Huge Challenge for Cities and Transit Networks

It has been around ten years since we massively adopted the use of GPS on our smartphones. But while this tool is extremely helpful for car journeys, it is much less efficient to calculate routes for pedestrians, and even less for wheelchair users. 

Navigating urban spaces with different abilities requires having access to specific, standardized, and comprehensive data about pedestrian pathways. However, this data is often unavailable. And when it does exist, it is partial and lacks consistency between territories. Are there curb ramps? How steep is the slope? Are there accessible pedestrian signals?

Numerous projects around the world aim to collect and harmonize data on pedestrian routes and in particular accessible routes. Let us look at the main initiatives that will make it possible to create more inclusive maps, GPS navigators and journey planners for all in the future!

Why data collection is so important to enhance mobility for people with disabilities?

Data collection has long been prioritized for streets and cars. Facilitating the mobility of pedestrians, especially pedestrians with a disability, requires collecting data on sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, and public transit networks.

People with disabilities need an accessible and seamless mobility chain to navigate independently. They need some specific features according to their mobility profile. Wheelchair users require wide pathways, lowered curb, and ramps or elevators to overcome grade breaks. Wholes or steps become intractable obstacles that ruin any attempt to move. 

Pedestrians who are blind or have low vision need a breadcrumb trail to keep their direction, tactile warning indicators before hazards, auditory bearings, and accessible pedestrian signals. 

People with an intellectual disability need safe and reassuring spaces, easy-to-read signage, pictograms, and colored markers. 

If one of the links in the mobility chain is broken, getting around becomes impossible. 

Today, navigation and routing applications do not take this data into account for the simple reason that it is insufficiently available. Therefore, data collection and harmonization are a major issue. How to describe accessible routes? What data to identify? How to avoid local variations? How to categorize it? How to make it available? 

Another challenge is to define mobility profiles. Manual wheelchair users do not have exactly the same needs as power wheelchair users. People with low vision do not have the same needs as blind people. Every kind of disability has its specifications, and every person their preferences.

OpenStreetMap and accessibility data

OpenStreetMap is a worldwide initiative to create and provide free geographic data, such as street maps, to anyone. Data is collected and recorded by volunteers all over the globe and can be used freely by service providers. Every citizen has the power and the tools to create a high-quality feature-rich map of their country, their states, their communities, and their neighborhoods.

However, most maps do not contain relevant accessibility information. Tags and keys are missing. OpenStreetMap aims to be the best world map for disabled users – by keeping track of important tags like wheelchair accessibility with Wheelmap, and by creating accessible versions of the map. It is important that OpenStreetMap’s data is open in full because it makes these things possible – to process a world map into a guidance app for the blind, or a map of only wheelchair-accessible places. 

The OpenStreetMap Wiki page about disabilities shares advice and good practice to create accessible maps. It gives tagging principles for disabilities. 

For blind or visually impaired people, mapping should include following information:

⊗  Tactile paving,

⊗  Accessible pedestrian signals (APS) with sound or vibrating indications,

⊗  Pedestrian crossings with islands,

⊗  Public transportation stops with platforms,

⊗  Audio signage,

⊗  Elevators with or without braille writing or embossed printed letters,

⊗  Handrails with braille writing or embossed printed letters,

⊗  Tactile maps,

⊗  Meeting locations of organizations of the blind and visually impaired,

⊗  Shops for optical glasses, eye doctors and hospital departments for eye diseases,

⊗  POIs that offer special products for the blind,

⊗  POIs that offer special accommodations for the blind like cinemas with audio description, museums with audio guides, restaurants with audio or braille menus, etc.

Keep in mind that accuracy is essential. If you indicate a public facility, precisely indicate the entrance and not the middle of the building.

For wheelchair users, people with reduced mobility or walking impairments or pushing strollers, mapping should include:

⊗  Access ramps,

⊗  Steepness of slopes and superelevation, 

⊗  Accessible restrooms, 

⊗  Handrails,

⊗  Elevators,

⊗  Accessible shops and businesses,

⊗  Accessible transit stations,

⊗  Accessible parking spaces,

⊗  Accessible accommodations: extra-wide cash desks, lowered counters, special shopping carts, fitting rooms, etc.,

⊗  Location of play equipment for disabled children, etc.

Keep in mind that wheelchair users have different abilities to go long distances and up slopes whether they use a manual or a power wheelchair. Information about distances and steepness of slopes should therefore be very precise. A user should have the possibility to avoid routes above a certain percentage grade.

For people who are deaf or have hearing impairments, mapping should include:

⊗  Induction loops,

⊗  Locations where there is sign language translation or cued speech,

⊗  POIs with special accommodations for deaf people: cinemas where movies are subtitled, theaters with special headphones, sound amplification systems, etc.

Maps designed for deaf people do not exist yet.

OpenSidewalks, a project to share data on the built environment in the US

Since 2015, Dr. Anna Caspi, director of the Taskar Center for Accessible Technology at the University of Washington (UW), and Nick Bolten, a Postdoctoral fellow in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, have been working with stakeholders on the OpenSidewalks project to improve the collection, organization and sharing of data on the built environment to promote equity and inclusivity in transportation. The project aims to establish consistent and detailed standards for monitoring data on pedestrian pathways and their connectivity within multimodal transport networks.

Using data collected from sidewalks, ramps, and traffic lights, Caspi and Bolten developed AccessMap, a web application launched in 2017 that provides personalized routes to pedestrians based on their mobility profile. Maps are available for three Washington cities: Seattle, Bellingham, and Mount Vernon, and Expansion is underway for Austin, Texas and San Jose, California.

The data collected as part of the OpenSidewalks project is not only useful for people with disabilities but also for city planners and mobility authorities who are responsible for ensuring fair mobility for all. This pedestrian-centric approach is part of a revolution in designing the city.

Pedestrians have a wide variety of needs and preferences. This is the reason the AccessMap application not only offers the choice of a static profile but also other characteristics specific to each of us. Labeling a path as “wheelchair accessible” would not make sense if we do not consider the variety of abilities among wheelchair users. 

Because pedestrian data has typically been so neglected, the OpenSidewalks project needs to tackle many issues at once: defining data schemes, creating data organization and applications, and proving their utility. 

NeTEx, a European standard for data about public transport networks

The accessibility data collection is indeed a global issue. Now let us look at how it is treated in Europe. 

NeTEx stands for “Network Timetable Exchange.” It is a European technical standard (CEN) for exchanging Public Transport Network, schedules, and related data. It covers three topics: the Public Transport Network topology, Scheduled Timetables, and Fare information.

NeTEx schema can be used to exchange Data about the Accessibility of services, stops and vehicles to passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility (passengers traveling with young children, elderly people, or passengers carrying heavy luggage).

The NeTEx public transport network model can be used to describe accessibility of all modes of transport: rail, bus (urban, suburban and regional), metro, ferry, etc. Accessibility data includes physical limitations, facilities, and assistance services. This data is aimed to enrich trip planners and offers the possibility to plan a route compatible with one’s abilities. Some member countries of the European Union have mandatory requirements to collect and harmonize accessibility data. 

The data can be classified into four categories:

Accessibility of sites, e.g., stations and stop places, including buildings and parking areas.
Data include for example elevator dimensions and controls, step heights, handrails, number of steps in a staircase, ramp gradients, etc.

Accessibility and connections: this set of data considers the fact that people with reduced mobility may need extra time to change services, either because they move more slowly, or because they must take a different path. This information is crucial for journey planners.

Accessibility of navigation paths: several navigation paths can be associated with the same connection. A navigation path is made of path links recording the characteristics of a path section. This can include elevators, tactile ground surface indicators, stairs, lighting, handrails, etc.

Accessibility of journeys: this category includes facilities and vehicles. Data related to vehicles are for example wheelchair access equipment such low floor access, on board wheelchair, and even assistance services. 

In this article, we wanted to show you the initiatives in favor of the collection of accessibility data around the world. This is a major issue and that the standardization of data is crucial. But it is also a huge challenge for cities and transport networks to succeed in this collection. This must undoubtedly go through participatory solutions involving all citizens, as the mountain to be climbed is so high.

Want to know more about issues related to the mobility of people with disabilities? Check out these articles:

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

How Can Multimodal Transit Centers Be Accessible for People with Disabilities?

How to Maintain Pedestrian Accessibility When Carrying Out Street Works?

Published on 29th November, 2021

media

A blind person using a cane is walking towards a staircase

Manual wheelchair users do not have exactly the same needs as power wheelchair users. People with low vision do not have the same needs as blind people. Every kind of disability has its specifications, and every person their preferences.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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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...

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...

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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.

8 Key Points to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Vision Disabilities at Public Venues

8 Key Points to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Vision Disabilities at Public Venues

A coffee shop with staff serving customers

8 Key Points to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Vision Disabilities at Public Venues

Are you sure that your facility meets all the conditions to properly accommodate blind or visually impaired people? The standards for accessibility set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 apply to all forms of disabilities. Behind the technical constraints that are sometimes obscure and off-putting for non-specialists, regulatory obligations meet the specific needs of certain categories of users. To help you see more clearly, we have detailed in this article all the fundamental principles to know so that your public accommodations or commercial facilities offer a high-quality welcome to all visitors who are blind or have low vision.

Follow this checklist, you will then have an exhaustive vision of the improvements you can make!

What are the needs of blind or visually impaired people in a public venue in terms of accessibility?

Like any visitor, blind or visually impaired people go to public venues to benefit from the services offered there. To access the building and services, the main difficulties experienced are as follows:

Orientation: knowing in which direction to go,

Location: finding their bearings and being able to identify them,

Access to written information,

Risks of falling or bumping into obstacles.

Take a notepad and a pen, exit your facility, and walk the route from the outdoor access, putting yourself in the shoes of a blind or visually impaired person. Write down anything that could be problematic, we guide you through each step of the travel chain.

Accessible tools to prepare the trip before your visit

Do your customers or users have access to all the information about your facility before their visit? Do you have a website? Does it meet digital accessibility standards? Can you find all the information on access to your facility?

Service areas: public transport stops, location of the parking area, drop-off point,

Description of the surroundings if the main entrance is not accessible directly from the street,

Location of the reception point, description of the route to get there,

Instructions for use of the access control device, if applicable.

Are your reception staff able to provide all this information over the phone? Here’s a tip: make a summary sheet that you will leave permanently near the switchboard.

Make the outdoor walking path detectable and safe

Is the entrance to your facility directly accessible from the street? 

If not, people with blindness or vision loss may find it difficult to reach it, especially if the space is large and devoid of cues such as a parking lot for example.

The path from the access to the outdoor area to the main entrance to the building must be easily detectable and recognizable thanks to a visual and tactile contrast. We can then play on the differences in floor coverings: asphalt, exposed aggregate concrete, resin, cobblestones, lawns, etc. In the absence of natural tactile contrast, it is possible to add directional or guidance tactile paving.

Regarding safety, several points must be checked:

If there are stairways on the outdoor walking path, they should be fitted with raised warning stripes at the top of each flight, contrasting and non-slip stair nosing, but also high-contrasting risers at the top and bottom.

If the walking path crosses a lane used by vehicles, it must include a textured surface such as truncated domes upstream and downstream of the pedestrian crossing.

If glass walls are located near the pedestrian path, they must be marked with high-contrasting elements to avoid the risk of bumping into them.

If there is a step of more than 15 inches close to the walking path, this drop should be protected with a guardrail.

Keep in mind that a person with a visual impairment cannot walk upright if they do not have a guidance path to orientate themselves. The notion of “walking path” must therefore be considered in the broad sense, namely all the space accessible to pedestrians and not just a virtual strip of 36 to 56 inches wide.

Make the main entrance easy to reach and to recognize

Is the entrance to your facility recognizable by a visual contrast or a particular architectural treatment? Is it equipped with an audio beacon? Is the name of your business clearly visible?

If the walking path leading to the main entrance is well defined and clearly identifiable, you have already done a good part of the work. However, people who are blind or have low vision need to confirm their position. For those who retain visual abilities, signage in large characters, using high-contrasting colors. And for people who cannot read, an audio beacon allows them to trigger a verbal message announcing the name of the business, using their standardized remote control or their smartphone.

Make sure your access control system is accessible

Does an intercom or a call button restrict access to your facility? If so, is it usable by a blind or visually impaired person?

So that the access control systems are not an obstacle for the visually impaired, it should above all be of a contrasting color compared to its support and have keys with writing in large characters, numbers and of raised symbols. So that your blind or visually impaired visitors are aware of the presence of this device before their visit, it is important that its existence be mentioned on your communication media. As we said before, this typology of visitors is used to prepare for their trips.

Finally, be aware that intercoms with name scrolling cannot be used by blind people. It is therefore necessary to provide an alternative if necessary: ​​communicate an access code, offer a welcome at the door, the possibility of contacting a person on arrival, etc.

Make your reception easy-to-access and detectable

Is your reception desk easy to find for your visually impaired visitors?

Blind or visually impaired people rely a lot on reception and human support to find their way around a building and benefit from the services offered there. To facilitate access, your reception desk must therefore be located as close as possible to the main entrance. It should be easily identifiable by visual contrast and suitable lighting. If it is necessary to cross a large area to get there, we recommend installing a guidance path that will make it easier for everyone to orientate themselves.

We draw your attention to the use of queue management systems. It is difficult for a blind or partially sighted person to stand in a queue and know when their turn is. Note that the systems cannot be used by this audience unless the person in charge of the distribution speaks aloud the number appearing on the ticket and the same applies to the order of passage. It is therefore recommended that visually impaired people be given priority access, on the same basis as people with standing problems.

Make indoor navigation easy and safe

Is it possible for a blind or visually impaired person to move around safely in your facility? Can they easily orientate themselves there?

It is likely that a person with a visual impairment coming to your facility for the first time will need human assistance to find their way there. However, there are certain arrangements to be made.

First and foremost, indoor hallways should offer the best possible security. Thus, the lighting must be sufficiently intense and homogeneous, that it must not create shadows. Floor lighting should be avoided due to glare.

Indoor paths must be free of any obstacle. Be sure to remove overhead obstacles or, if this is not possible, to force them to be bypassed by a piece of furniture. The glass walls located along the path must have contrasting elements to avoid the risk of bumping into them.

To facilitate the orientation of visually impaired people in complex spaces, the installation of guidance paths or directional paving is recommended, possibly associated with audio beacons. The Evelity indoor navigation application tailored for all types of disabilities is also specially designed to allow visitors with disabilities to move around independently within a complex building such as an administrative center, museum, university, or hospital.

Finally, all stairs must be secured with:

Easy-grip and continuous handrails on both sides,

Detectable warning surfaces at the top of each flight,

Contrasting and non-slippery stair nosing,

Contrasting risers on the first and last step of each flight and

Adequate lighting.

If your facility has one or more elevators, for them to be usable by visually impaired people, they should have:

Visually and tactile contrasted call buttons,

Visually contrasted numbers, raised and in Braille,

A vocalization system for floor numbers and cabin movements.

Make your signage visible and readable to visually impaired people

Do the doors to rooms, bedrooms or offices in your facility have signage that can be read by blind or visually impaired people?

After crossing a hall, walking through mazes of corridors and stairs, what could be more natural than wanting to confirm your destination. Am I in front of room 212? For the visually impaired to be able to do this independently, the door signs must include the name or number of the room in large letters. These must be of a contrasting color compared to the support and be raised by 1 to 2 millimeters for tactile reading. The inscription must also be in Braille.

Similar signage must be found at the restrooms to distinguish the male toilets from the female toilets.

Specific provisions for equipment and materials accessible to the public

Can all the equipment made available to the public in your facility be used independently by a blind or visually impaired person?

ATMs, vending machines, drink machines, photocopiers…, anyone should be able to use them. To achieve this objective with visually impaired people, it is above all necessary to provide written instructions in large, contrasting characters. An operation vocalization system is also desirable for anyone unable to read.

If you have followed our journey, you now know everything there is to do to make your business accessible to blind or visually impaired people. To prioritize the work and investments that will allow you to reach your goal, we recommend that you turn to qualified accessibility professionals. Better than anyone, they will know how to support you in the implementation.

Would you like to know more about visual impairment? Dive in with:

6 Tips to Communicate with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

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

How Do the Blind Safely Cross the Road?

Published on September 17th, 2021

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An audio beacon at Okeenea's entrance

To facilitate the orientation of visually impaired people in complex spaces, the installation of guidance paths or directional paving is recommended, possibly associated with audio beacons.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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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...

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned! Having a disability = using a wheelchair. That’s one persisting cliché! Actually, only 2% of people with disabilities are wheelchair users but 80% have invisible disabilities! What we mean by “invisible...

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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.

6 Tips to Communicate with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

6 Tips to Communicate with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

Two people sitting face to face and chatting

6 Tips to Communicate with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

Do you feel uncomfortable, distraught, clumsy… when you see a blind person? No need to worry, we’ve made up a quick survival guide with 6 key points to make sure everything goes well. Before all, stay natural and relaxed, simply start the conversation naturally and the rest will follow!

1. Speak first

It’s the easiest way to break the ice. If you speak first, the visually impaired person will be able to locate where you are thanks to the sound of your voice and will know who to speak to. Say hi to them as soon as they arrive and ask them if they need anything.

2. Introduce yourself

Even if you’re clearly speaking to them and that you’re wearing a name tag or a uniform, a blind or visually impaired person will struggle to spontaneously know if you’re a staff member or not. Simply say who you are so that they’ll know what they can ask from you.

If you’ve met them before, they may spontaneously recognize you with the sound of your voice. But recognizing a voice isn’t as reliable as recognizing someone’s facial features. The context, the intonation, and some circumstances like a cold can make your voice unrecognizable. So don’t hesitate to say your name, you’ll save time!

3. Make sure the person you’re talking to has understood you’re speaking to them

If several people are present in the same place at the same time, like in a line for example, it’s difficult for those who can’t see or see poorly to know when someone is speaking to them.

When a visually impaired person enters a room, call them by their name if you know it. Or you can try by getting closer to them and speaking facing them, calling their Sir or Madam. And if that still isn’t enough, get their attention by slightly touching their arm. If you’re not standing by them, you can ask their neighbor to do it.

4. Describe the situation

If you’re not available right now, say it. The visually impaired person will know their presence has been noticed and that they just need to wait patiently.

For example: “I’ll be right with you after finishing to take care of the three people who have been waiting”, “I’m on the phone, I’ll be right with you as soon as I’m finished”. 

5. Offer to help but don’t impose it

Nothing is more unbearable for a visually impaired person than being grabbed by the arm by a person they haven’t seen coming, being led to an unknown destination without being spoken to at any given moment. Unfortunately, this type of situation happens all the time and yet, the intentions of the unknown person are generally laudable.

The missing step can be summed up in one sentence: “Hi, can I help you?”

The person you’re talking to will be free to accept or not, according to the situation and their autonomy level. Then, they’ll tell you what they need. They’re the ones who can best tell! Just listen to them!

6. Be specific

Avoid giving indications that depend on sight: “over here”, “no, not there”, “here”…

Use landmarks: right, left, in front of, behind, and don’t hesitate to describe situations.

For example: “You’re facing a staircase going down”, “You should walk around the chair to come up to me”, “There’s a pole in front of you, you can get around it on your right”. 

If you want to know more about how to best assist people with disabilities, you can follow the course At Your Service: Welcoming Customers with Disabilities provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You’ll be able to better understand the needs of people with disabilities.

Be more familiar with blind and visually impaired people with these articles:

8 Clichés About Blind People

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

Everything You Have Always Wanted to Know on Braille Mysterious Writing

media

A white arrow pointing left on a green wall

Avoid giving indications that depend on sight: “over here”, “no, not there”, “here”…

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

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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...

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned! Having a disability = using a wheelchair. That’s one persisting cliché! Actually, only 2% of people with disabilities are wheelchair users but 80% have invisible disabilities! What we mean by “invisible...

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.

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

People with invisible disabilities partying

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned! 

Having a disability = using a wheelchair. That’s one persisting cliché! Actually, only 2% of people with disabilities are wheelchair users but 80% have invisible disabilities! What we mean by “invisible disabilities” is an unnoticed disability at first glance, that is to say when the person in question hasn’t made their difficulties known. What are the types of invisible disabilities? How can you identify them? What are the best practices to best welcome people with invisible disabilities at public venues? Follow the guide, we’ll explain everything!

Several types of invisible disabilities

Although we usually arrange them in main categories, there are as many disabilities as people with disabilities. The same holds true for invisible disabilities! They include most sensory disabilities (visual and hearing impairments), most of the mental and psychological impairments, cognitive disabilities and a lot of chronic diseases generating incapabilities.

In concrete terms, the following situations are part of invisible disabilities:

Hearing impairment,

Visual impairment,

Certain forms of autism,

Bipolar disorders,

Alzheimer’s disease,

People with a heart condition,

Dyslexia,

People with post-traumatic-disorders (war veterans or terrorist attack survivors), etc.

A lot of elderly people have an invisible disability, some may even have several.

Illiteracy is also a cause of invisible disability, even though it’s rarely acknowledged as such by the administration. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 54% of adults between 16 and 74 years old lack proficiency in literacy. That represents around 130 million people who can read below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level. Illiteracy has direct consequences on people’s quality of life and their integration into society.

Invisible disabilities creates multiple difficulties

The consequences of having an invisible disability vary according to the type of disability and its severity. Having disabilities can lead to being easily tired, having attention deficit disorders, difficulties to take initiatives or to put up a strategy, memory disorders.

Many people with invisible disabilities prefer not to disclose their disabilities. Some even feel ashamed because of them. This is due to the fact that being different is often regarded as a problem by relatives or work relations. Sometimes invisible disabilities can have an impact on our intimacy. For example, those with Crohn’s disease have to use the bathroom very often. Endometriosis also has a strong impact on the everyday lives of women with it. More than 6 million women have endometriosis in the U.S.

Contrary to people whose disabilities are obvious, people with invisible disabilities are often suspected to lie or to be lazy. They’re more likely to be misunderstood, laughed at or insulted. Their specific needs are rarely taken into account. However, many of them are legitimately entitled to use a parking space for people with reduced mobility (PRM), to ask for a seat at public transportation or to have priority in a line.

A lot of invisible disabilities have variable manifestations according to the situation, the events, the fatigue people feel or their mood. These fluctuations increase how misunderstood people with invisible disabilities may be by their relatives. Consequently, they have to make more of an effort to adapt which makes them much more tired. 

How can you best welcome people with invisible disabilities?

The tricky part is that by definition invisible disabilities aren’t obvious. In order to provide people with invisible disabilities with the best possible welcome, it’s important you build a climate of trust so that your visitors can freely express their specific needs. To do that, you can directly ask them: “Do you need anything in particular?”. This can be a seat to wait, some help to fill up a document, a handwritten note with the main directions to follow to get to a place or any other action that will enable them to better have access to your services.

A good thing to set up: make sure to systematically provide a field in all your subscription forms for people to express their specific needs.

And also make sure not to judge particular demands and to leave behind any negative prejudices you may have. As we said earlier, people with invisible disabilities mostly suffer from being accused of lying or taking advantage. Keep a positive and respectful attitude in all circumstances! For any situation, you can use our 7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities.

To conclude, invisible disabilities are far from being uncommon. Always keep in mind that the person you’re talking to may have specific needs you may not have thought of at first. By remaining open-minded and by listening to them without judging, you give them the opportunity to express themselves. Thus you’re more likely to meet their needs and to make them have access to the services your venue provides more easily!

Published on August 6th, 2021

media

People with invisible disabilities sitting on a bench at the beach

Having disabilities can lead to being easily tired, having attention deficit disorders, difficulties to take initiatives or to put up a strategy, memory disorders.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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...

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...

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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.

8 Tips to Welcome a Person with a Physical Disability

8 Tips to Welcome a Person with a Physical Disability

A wheelchair user

8 Tips to Welcome a Person with a Physical Disability

You’re peacefully sitting behind your reception desk when a wheelchair user comes to you. No need to panic, even with a physical disability, this person probably has similar demands as any other visitors. Staying open-minded and using common sense, you’ll be able to best assist them and lead them to the services they’re interested in. And to make sure not to make a blunder, keep in mind this precious series of advice!

What’s a physical disability?

The services dedicated to people with a physical disability are often identified with the wheelchair logo. But people with a physical disability or reduced mobility encounter a lot of different situations. This disability concerns people with motor function impairments, meaning they’ve lost some or all of their motor skills. This can affect their legs, arms or the rest of their body. People with a physical disability may find it difficult to get around or to perform manual tasks. Having a physical disability can also impact their speech without changing their ability to understand. 

To make sure you’re providing a person with a physical disability the best possible experience, start by following our 7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities! They work every time!

And now, let’s see some specific advice!

 #1 Lead your customers with a physical disability towards the priority line

Staying in a line can be extremely exhausting for people with a physical disability, especially for those who have difficulty standing. Bearing their weight on stilts or on a walker can be tiring. If they haven’t seen it, make sure to let them know where the priority line is.

#2 Offer a seat

If people who have difficulty standing still need to wait in line, make sure to offer them a seat. But stay careful so that no one jumps the line. It would be a shame for people with a physical disability to wait longer just because they’re sitting apart. 

#3 Put yourself at their level to easily communicate with them

If you need to discuss at length with a person with a physical disability, it would be better for you to sit down. You’d be at the same level as them and would avoid yourself with a stiff neck. This situation would be much more comfortable for both of you. For front desks to be accessible, they should all have a lowered counter. This enables a direct visual contact with wheelchair users and people of small stature. If your front desk doesn’t have a lowered counter, don’t hesitate to go around it.

#4 Opt for an optimized route

If you need to tell a person with a physical disability how to reach a service your venue provides, be careful to choose an itinerary without any obstacles. Lead them to where the elevators and automatic doors are located. Make sure the route doesn’t have any steps, steep slopes nor loose or slippery ground.

#5 Offer to help

The emphasis is on “offering” and not “imposing”! But if the chosen route shows difficulties (steep slope, high threshold, loose ground, crossfall…), your help will probably be welcome. If for that you need to push a wheelchair user, just wait until they’ve agreed to it. Don’t lean on their wheelchair, it’s like an extension of their body! Choose the less bumpy routes, avoid abrupt movements and tell them beforehand the maneuvers you need to do. To pass a step or a rise, turn the wheelchair around, slightly tilt it and gently pull it towards you.

#6 Deploy the access ramp

If the venue you work in isn’t accessible at ground level nor equipped with a permanent access ramp, a removable ramp for wheelchair users can be easy to use. It needs to have a call button at the level of the entrance door so that people who need it can make their presence known. We recommend you to be familiar with how this ramp works in order for you to be prepared should the need arise.

#7 Be patient

A person who has a physical disability may have slower movements than average. Avoid showing any impatience, this could make them feel more anxious and get flustered. Offer to help if you can. And if they have a speech impediment, let them finish their sentences to avoid any misunderstandings. Don’t hesitate to make them repeat themselves if necessary.

#8 Accept service dogs without discussing it

Service dogs for people with disabilities and guide dogs for blind people can have access to all public venues without extra charge and without any obligation to wear a muzzle. Let them come in with their owners. They aren’t like any other dogs: they went to school and know how to behave!

We hope this series of advice will enable you to feel more comfortable welcoming a person with a physical disability. No matter what, don’t forget this golden rule: talk to the other person as you would with anybody else! They’ll always forgive you for making a blunder if you stay open to dialogue and listen to their needs. 

If you’d like to know more about physical disability, check out our article: Obstacles in Public Transport: What Solutions for Physical Disability?

Published on 25th June 2021

media

A wheelchair user and his carer

If you need to discuss at length with a person with a physical disability, it would be better for you to sit down. You’d be at the same level as them and would avoid yourself with a stiff neck.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

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powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

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

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