9 Must-Have Apps for People with Physical Disabilities in 2020

9 Must-Have Apps for People with Physical Disabilities in 2020

9 Must-Have Apps for People with Physical Disabilities in 2020

 

For people with physical disabilities, getting around in their everyday lives can be extremely difficult. Indeed, for wheelchair users a lot of obstacles can turn their trip into a nightmare like curbs that aren’t lowered or buildings with narrow entrances. They need to find business places, parking spots or even restrooms that are easily accessible for them. In the United States, there are approximately 2.7 million people who use a wheelchair. How can they navigate their way in the city and fully enjoy it?

Luckily, smartphones and apps in particular have made their lives better as it’s the case for deaf and hard of hearing people. Several apps are available that help them be more autonomous and more serene in their trips. Some were even created especially for people with poor dexterity or with reduced use of their upper limbs so that they can use their phones without any struggle. 

Let’s take a look at 9 free apps for people with mobility impairments that are entirely at their service!

Google Maps

One of the most used apps for GPS navigation is without doubt Google Maps. It offers street maps, street views, aerial photography and satellite imagery to visualize any place. It also gives information on traffic and on public transportation and plans your route according to the mode of travel (by foot, driving).

Thanks to the street views, the users can zoom in every part of a street to see if the curbs are lowered, an essential point for people in wheelchairs who want to get around in the city.

The app can be extremely helpful for wheelchair users with several features especially designed for them since it can show the exact location of the elevators and ramps that are laid in the city. They just need to select the “wheelchair accessible” option when they’re planning their route. 

If they want to use public transportation, Google Maps can even inform them on which modes of transport would best suit them.

The very new “accessible places” feature provides all the information concerning the layout of the premises wheelchair users need to know: entrance, parking spots, restrooms, seating arrangements… Whether they want to shop or eat at a restaurant, people with mobility impairment can easily find places accessible for them.

Available on both Android and iOS

 

Wheelmap

Another app that focuses on finding all the accessible places is Wheelmap. Not only does it map all the accessible places (restaurants, cafés, boutiques…) all over the world but it’s supplied by users. People with physical disabilities collect all the data necessary and transmit it to Wheelmap: they can upload images and leave comments. Thus sharing their experience with others who go through the same obstacles, they are in control of their environment. 

Wheelmap even gathers a community and organizes events for fellow users to join.

Plus, the app can be set in 32 languages. 

Available on both Android and iOS

AccessNow

A similar app to Wheelmap, AccessNow maps and locates several types of accessible places all around the world: restaurants, hotels, shops… The users can add information that can be rated by all.

Available on both Android and iOS

WheelMate

Focusing on locating only parking spots and restrooms, WheelMate also depends on information given by its users whether by adding new places or by rating them. 

More than 35 000 locations are mapped across 45 countries.

Available on both Android and iOS

FuelService

Although this app can only be used in the United Kingdom, it’s extremely innovative and helpful for disabled drivers to find a gas station with attendants who can help refueling their car. Thanks to this app, drivers who use wheelchairs can contact attendants to tell them they’re on their way. Attendants are then notified once the drivers arrive. The app also tells the drivers how many minutes they need to wait before being served.

Thus a task that can be challenging for a driver in a wheelchair can easily be done thanks to fuelService.

Available on both Android and iOS

 

IFTTT

Even though this app wasn’t designed for people with physical disabilities in particular, it can apply to them since its goal is to simplify the tasks of our everyday lives by connecting your different apps together. It even works with social networks.

Over 600 apps can be connected to IFTTT creating various combinations called “applets”. Thus, different tasks that people with poor dexterity struggle with can be automatically done such as set the home thermostat at the ideal temperature, read an email aloud, control everything at home with voice and Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant…

Setting all the necessary applets enables people with reduced dexterity to control every single task. They’re the ones who control everything thus making the app apply to their lives. 

Available on both Android and iOS

Google Assistant 

As previously mentioned, Google Assistant is activated by voice. People with reduced dexterity can use it to control their phones and ask them to call or text someone, send an email, set up alarms… 

Available on both Android and iOS

Google Voice Access

This app even goes further since it was especially created for people with reduced dexterity who can struggle to manipulate their phones. 

This accessibility service enables users to ask basic commands such as sending a text and address commands that directly involve what’s on the screen. The user doesn’t need to touch his phone to click or to scroll. Every task can be hands-free and easily operated by voice commands.

Available on Android

AssistiveTouch

A feature that can be set to help users to use their phones without having to use their fingers to access functions on their phones. 

Depending on their dexterity capacity, users can set AssistiveTouch to customize their actions. They can choose to do a single tap, a double tap or a long press. It’s even possible to create new gestures thus adapting more precisely the feature to the dexterity capacity of the user. The feature can record any movement the user wants to perform.

Available on both Android and iOS

Thanks to these apps and features, people with physical disabilities gain more autonomy and independence. Today technology rimes with accessibility for all. Clearly, it leaves no one behind and moves forward to meet the needs of everybody.

 

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Thanks to these apps and features, people with physical disabilities gain more autonomy and independence. Today technology rimes with accessibility for all.

writer

Carole Martinez

Digital Content Manager Junior

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The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal AccessibilityWith 1.36 million passengers per day, the Montreal metro is the first network in Canada and the third in North America behind New York City and Mexico City. The network, which was inaugurated on October 14, 1966...

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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.

Everything You Have Always Wanted to Know on Braille Mysterious Writing

Everything You Have Always Wanted to Know on Braille Mysterious Writing

Everything You Have Always Wanted to Know on Braille Mysterious Writing

 

On elevators, medicine boxes, descriptions in museums or door signs…, you’ve probably noticed those small raised dots. You already know they’re for blind people but do you know how they work? Let us guide you through it!

Braille, the writing and reading tactile system with raised dots used by visually impaired people, exists since 1829. Its inventor, Louis Braille, a French blind man, created this tactile alphabet in order to be able to read and write, thus gaining access to education like everybody else. Braille represents an essential tool for a visually impaired person to learn and consequently be included in society. Even though braille has evolved, the 1829 system still constitutes the reading basis for blind and visually impaired people. Let’s go back in time to discover its creation and its use in today’s society!

Systems used before Braille

As soon as the 17th century, it has been understood that the sense of touch for blind and visually impaired people was to be exploited to teach them how to read. The idea of touching embossed paper came from Italian Jesuit Francesco Lana de Terzi with its eponymous system in 1670. The Lana system was composed of lines and raised dots on thick paper based on a three-by-three grid containing the alphabet letters. One just needed to learn the specificities of this grid to learn this writing system.

In the following century, French man of letters Valentin Haüy made education for blind and visually impaired people really possible. He had special embossed and movable characters made so that students could touch and read what was under their fingers. This raised letters method was put into practice at the Royal Institution of Blind Children, now called the National Institute for the Young Blind, a school opened by Valentin Haüy in Paris in 1785. The Valentin Haüy Association that also emerged still continues to promote Braille.

Although the two previous systems were specifically designed to meet the needs of blind and visually impaired people, 1808-1809 code by French Charles Barbier de la Serre was first created for army officers so that they could write and transmit messages in the dark. Called “night writing”, this system was based on sounds and consisted of raised dots on a grid. In 1819, Barbier perfected it to present it at the Royal Institution of Blind Children.

Louis Braille, at the time a student of the school, perceived the system potential but also its limits since it didn’t take into account the words spelling but only their pronunciation. He decided to improve Barbier system himself seeing that Barbier didn’t agree with his suggestions. He then created a code still used today and lent it his name: Braille.

What is Braille?

Louis Braille kept the basic principles of Barbier system, that is to say the encoding and the raised dots, but reviewed two elements:

The number of dots went from 12 to 6.

⊗ He opted for the coding of Latin typographic signs (letters, punctuation, musical notes).

Where a non-visually impaired person sees an indecipherable, crypted and almost extra-terrestrial language, a visually impaired person perceives a distinct language, a code they decipher and master to read and to learn. We tend to forget it but Braille is indeed a code! Continuing with an encoding enables to keep a system that’s easy to learn: each character is set in a cell composed of raised dots. In a cell, the six dots are divided into two columns. The numbering of dots allows to know their position. Thus, each character has a very precise combination.

Braille is a universal language since it’s used by other Latin languages for basic letters but there are still elements that can differ according to the languages such as accented letters, symbols and punctuation signs.

Despite being a code, it still needs to render the meaning of the language used: consequently the meaning of the symbols isn’t the same according to the language. That is why Japanese, Korean and Cyrillic brailles have different particularities that set them aside from French Braille.  

Code developments

Gradually, the code has evolved and impacted other areas such as mathematics and music thus enabling blind and visually impaired people to develop skills and/or hobbies. Nevertheless, there are limits to mathematics Braille. Mathematics formulas can indeed be very long once transcribed into Braille and therefore complex to comprehend.

Seeing that the standard Braille and its 6 dots only permits having 64 combinations, some characters such as numbers or capital letters have to be coded onto 2 characters. When Braille moved to IT, the Braille cell thus gained 2 dots. Thanks to this IT Braille encoded on 8 dots, 256 combinations are then possible, which enables to transcribe all the new symbols of the digital era such as the at symbol into just one character.

A system that looks to the future

Today, visually impaired people can easily be connected to the Web and thus to the entire world same as any Internet user. Technology has evolved and serves them. It’s not just smartphones that enable them to gain a real autonomy. Thanks to the advanced progress, blind and visually impaired people can:

⊗ Read any document on the net thanks to a Braille transcription software. The text is automatically transcribed into Braille and can even be printed in Braille thanks to a special printer called braille embosser.

⊗ Access scanned Braille documents thanks to the National Library Service (NLS) and other digital libraries. 

Use a refreshable Braille display (or Braille terminal) on which a Braille keyboard is embedded. The dots can raise or lower depending on the characters. The onscreen text can directly be translated unto the refreshable Braille display.

Set up a speech synthesizer that reads aloud the onscreen text.

 ⊗ Use a screen reader software that transforms the onscreen text into a Braille page or into a read aloud text.

Looking into the history of Braille and its evolution, it’s easy to realize that Louis Braille has truly changed millions of people lives giving them access to an education, a fundamental right. He literally gave them the keys, well the code, so that they can live in a more inclusive world with real autonomy. His code enables blind and visually impaired people to read, write and learn just like any citizen and is used today to comply with the demands of the digital world. From 1829 to 2020, just a few clicks are enough…

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Braille represents an essential tool for a visually impaired person to learn and consequently be included in society. Even though braille has evolved, the 1829 system still constitutes the reading basis for blind and visually impaired people.

writer

Carole Martinez

Digital Content Manager Junior

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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal AccessibilityWith 1.36 million passengers per day, the Montreal metro is the first network in Canada and the third in North America behind New York City and Mexico City. The network, which was inaugurated on October 14, 1966...

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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.

5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 Must-Have Apps for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People in 2020

 

Technological breakthroughs can do miracles. For the 466 million people worldwide having disabling hearing loss (WHO), smartphones have become an essential tool to facilitate social interaction due to speech perception.

Today 95% of deaf and hard of hearing people use a smartphone on a daily basis in developed countries. Plenty of applications contribute to eliminate the main communication-related obstacles that hamper the daily lives of millions of deaf and hard of hearing people around the world.

But to get you started, we have selected for you the 5 best apps of 2020 to help your visitors with hearing impairment get in touch with you, communicate once there and benefit from the services available at your place. This non-exhaustive list is no substitute for potential devices already available at your venue such as hearing loops but rather optional supplements to better accommodate deaf or hard of hearing people in your establishment or during concertations meetings.

Smartphone accessibility settings

 

Before rushing to Google Play or the App Store, it is important to check with the user that the accessibility settings to their smartphone are well configured. Good settings are more effective than an application that will overload the device.

Phone functionalities are often underused due to the lack of communication by operating systems and their constant evolution. They are however simple to activate and highly useful. Here are the ones you need to communicate to your staff if necessary this year.

First, find out about the phone model. Does the person have an iPhone? For iPhone 5 or later users, the phone includes several basic accessibility options such as:

⊗ Volume control

⊗ Live Listen for the hearing-impaired in order to perceive more clearly the interlocutor during a conversation, even if the person is on the other side of the room or the environment is noisy. Audio can be sent to compatible Made for iPhone hearing aids, AirPods or Powerbeats.

⊗ Mono audio for people with hearing loss in one ear. Stereo recordings have separate audio information in each ear. Mono audio lets you hear the same information in both ears.

⊗ The configuration of RTT and TTY protocols to make calls as live text.

⊗ Visible and vibration alerts to avoid missing calls, messages and notifications with the possibility of choosing several vibration options as well as a flashlight.

⊗ Siri by typing the desired question.

 

Shortcuts can be set to simplify access to features using a triple-click. Invite users to make the last update of their device to have access to the latest features.

 

For Android phones, the native functionalities are fewer but are supplemented by downloadable applications. To date, smartphones running Android operating system have the following accessibility features for the deaf and hard of hearing:

⊗ Instant transcription to follow a live conversation in over 70 languages ​​and participate in the conversation quickly thanks to speech synthesis.

⊗ Subtitles with the possibility to choose the preferences of the subtitles to use (language, text and style).

⊗ Instant Captions: This feature is automatic for all multimedia content currently playing on Google Pixel devices only.

⊗ Hearing aid compatibility that lets you pair hearing aids with an Android device to hear more clearly.

⊗ Real-time text during calls (RTT) that works with TTY. As on the iPhone, this option offers the possibility of typing text to communicate live during a phone call.

5 essential apps for deaf and hard of hearing people

 

Once the phone is set up correctly, it is time to focus on installing applications according to usage. We have selected for you 6 free and useful applications to gain accessibility in 2020.

 

  1. Ava 

An instant transcription app that transcribes in live the words of a group of people. Each participant installs the application on its smartphone and using the microphone the conversations are transcribed. This allows people who are deaf or hard of hearing to distinctly follow a conversation within a group without having to lip-read.

Useful for iPhone users who don’t have access to the famous instant transcription native functionality from Google during your consultation meetings.

Available on iOS and Android.

 

  1. RogerVoice 

 

The world famous French application created in 2013 by Olivier Jeannel offers two options.

The first is the live transcription of telephone conversations in more than 100 languages as well as the possibility of answering by voice synthesis. People who are deaf and those who have hearing loss, or someone who has difficulty speaking can use the phone to have a conversation with someone, and receive a typed text of what the other person is saying.

The application goes further by offering to make calls thanks to the help of qualified LSF Interpreters graduates and Graduated LPC coders (in France only). A free version offers up to one hour of call by video interpreter assistance. 

Useful for deaf or hard of hearing people who want to request information about your venue from a distance.

Available on iOS and Android.

 

  1. Sound Amplifier

The Sound Amplifier app for Android is the equivalent of the Live Listen option included in basic iPhone settings. However, it offers more advanced functions in terms of sound volume adjustments and eliminates background noise.

The Sound Amplifier app improves the audio quality of Android devices when using headphones, to provide a more comfortable and natural listening experience. The Sound Amplifier app enhances and amplifies sounds from the real world.

This application can be very useful if your venue has a poor sound environment.

Available on Android. Note that the Sound Amplifier application is part of the native settings of Google Pixel phones.

 

  1. TapSOS

The British app Tap SOS allows deaf and hard of hearing person to connect with emergency services in a nonverbal way. By creating a profile that includes personal medical history emergency responders can give the best care in the event of an emergency. 

When connecting with an emergency service, the app pinpoints the exact location and send all the data stored in the user’s profile in seconds.

The app won the 2018 Digital Health Award as the best effective method for all smartphone users to contact the emergency services in situation of distress.

Available on iOS and Android.

  1. Subtitle Viewer

Using the smartphones’ microphones, the Subtitle Viewer application offers the possibility of viewing subtitles in different languages ​​live on the user’s phone. The subtitles are displayed in real time and the text passage is highlighted.

The application synchronizes with television and movies at the cinema. Other similar applications are available on the market and can accommodate hearing impaired people in your cinemas if the movie screenings are not captioned.

Available on iOS and Android.

 

As you can see, smartphones can be great tools within reach to help people live well with hearing loss. Whether they enhance access to labour market, culture, medical care and public services, today’s technology encourages social bonds between deaf and hard of hearing people and the rest of the population even it does not replace human contact.

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Phone functionalities are often underused due to the lack of communication by operating systems and their constant evolution. They are however simple to activate and highly useful.

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal AccessibilityWith 1.36 million passengers per day, the Montreal metro is the first network in Canada and the third in North America behind New York City and Mexico City. The network, which was inaugurated on October 14, 1966...

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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.

Brisbane: A City for Everyone

Brisbane: A City for Everyone

Brisbane: a City for Everyone

 

Currently in Australia, it has been estimated that approximately 357,000 people are either blind or experience some form of vision impairment. This number has been projected to increase to 564,000 by 2030. 

Moreover 8% of pedestrians with vision impairment living in Australia have reported being involved in a collision with a vehicle or a bicycle in the last five years. 20% have reported being involved in a near collision in the same period.

Taking into consideration these statistics, how can the City of Brisbane improve street navigation of people living with some form of visual limitation? What concrete solutions have been implemented so far and will be in the future to ensure everyone has equal opportunity to enjoy the city?

 

Proven solutions to favor accessibility of blind pedestrians in Brisbane

 

Brisbane City Council controls more than 6800 kilometres of roads, which include 50,000 intersections and more than 850 sets of traffic lights. No wonder why it can be a nightmare navigating the City when you have visual impairment. 

Statistically, hazards occur more at junctions than anywhere else. It is then the responsibility of local council to take action in order to ensure safety to everyone.

“Council has been undertaking positive education with the public about the importance of independent mobility of pedestrians with vision impairment so that residents and businesses can help be part of a solution that strikes a fair balance between the needs of pedestrians.”

Adrian Schrinner, Lord Mayor of Brisbane since 2019

 

Brisbane Access and Inclusion Plan 2012-2017 

 

Between 2012 and 2017, the Council has invested $200 million in implementing the Brisbane Access and Inclusion Plan dedicating part of its effort on Pedestrian mobility and transport. Of the overall amount, approximately $6.8 million were fully dedicated each year to make the city more accessible for all its citizens.

After this five-year plan in 2017, 80% of residents agreed that Brisbane was a more inclusive and accessible city (up from 61% in previous years).

This accessibility plan includes but is not limited to initiatives to help blind and low vision pedestrians cross the street independently such as:

⊗ Audio-tactile signals or audible tactile traffic signals (ATTS) at signalised junctions to communicate information about the green and red intervals in non-visual format.

Local representatives have publicly stated that “Special facilities including audible and tactile features now exist at most traffic light pedestrian crossings” although no official statistics are available at the time being.

However Lord Mayor of Brisbane Adrian Schrinner has declared that “In Brisbane we consider ourselves to be highly accessible, which is why we previously voluntarily installed audio tactile facilities at all signalised intersections within the Brisbane CBD and over 500 intersections across Brisbane.”

Brisbane’s audible traffic signals (ATTS) have the particularity to automatically respond to background noise and thus operate on lower volumes in the late evening and early morning.

More info on local audible tactile traffic signals (ATTS) guidelines.

 

⊗ Extended walking times at designated signalised pedestrian crossings to allow people with slow walk to cross the street safely and in their own pace. Extended walk times are currently provided in locations where there is high use from specific user groups that require additional time to cross.

⊗ Widespread braille trail network to help people with visual limitation move independently. A braille trail is a pathway of paving with dots and dash patterns intended for visually-impaired people walking with a cane. Brisbane’s original braille trail was established in the Queen Street Mall back in 1989. An investment of $90,000 has been made in the recent years to lengthen it.

“At about 1.6 kilometres in length, the Brisbane CBD braille trail network through Queen Street mall, Albert Street, Reddacliff Place and King George Square is the longest continuous braille trail in Australia.”

⊗ Tactile ground surface indicators (TGSIs). The City will continue to install tactile ground surface indicators according to Australian Standards at locations of high use and on request. Brisbane city council will also upgrade bus stops with TGSI’s features in response with users’ requests.

⊗ Consistent, firm and even pathways to prevent from tripping hazards

⊗ Tactile street signs on traffic lights to help residents and visitors navigate the streets. 390 brightly-coloured rectangular signs are now in place across the city at locations selected by residents and associations. Street name and building numbers are printed in braille in yellow raised letters on the same pole and height as the pedestrian push-button.

⊗ Safe unsignalised pedestrian crossings including the design and installation, where appropriate, of footpath build-outs and pedestrian refuge islands.

 

As a reward the council’s investment in the five-year Access and Inclusion Plan, Brisbane won the National Disability, Access and Inclusion Award 2017 Awards. 

Council’s investment in access and inclusion has been recognised across the country. But Brisbane does not stop there and aims at being the world accessibility leader in ten years.

“By 2029 Brisbane will be a city for everybody – known worldwide for embracing all ages, abilities and cultures.”

Graham Quirk, Lord Mayor of Brisbane (2011-2019)

 

How to make Brisbane world accessibility leader?

 

In 2019, the end of Lord mayor Graham Quirk’s term to Adrian Schrinner has triggered the second installment of the inclusive plan: A City for Everyone: Draft Inclusive Brisbane Plan 2019-2029.

This draft includes several accessibility and inclusion projects for the ten years to come to go one step further in making Brisbane truly accessible to blind and partially-sighted people.

Among the new initiatives on the agenda, the creation of digital platforms and apps, which takes a naturally significant part in the program with regard to the physical installations that have been introduced so far. The objective is to leverage those physical accessibility equipment to offer additional digital services.

In 2017, the app Access 4000 was developed to provide real time information on different accessibility features available in businesses and venues around Brisbane such as automated doors, disabled parking and toilets, hearing loop, interpreter, lifts, support for low vision or blindness and wheelchair access.

Furthemore, community organisations and Brisbane Marketing – the city’s economic development board – has partnered to create a mobile phone application with a map and a potentially augmented reality platform to assist people with disability to navigate Brisbane streets, publics spaces, buildings and plan their journey. Acting as an outdoor and indoor digital wayfinding system, this new undergoing project gives great prospects for the autonomy of visually impaired people.

Additionally, to enable Brisbane citizens to be informed of updates on temporary obstacles or closures affecting pedestrians, an online portal will be created. This platform will also give residents better information on community transport and shared vehicle options. By offering this digital solution to its citizens, visually impaired people of Brisbane will finally be aware of disruption of accessible routes.

More information on how to maintain pedestrian accessibility when carrying out street works.

Regarding physical accessibility, the council is planning on investing its efforts on pedestrian crossings enhancements, walking and wheeling tour for people with different sensory needs and the creation of tactile library spaces for visitors with specific needs such as autism or blindness.

 

We are looking forward to the official publication of the 2019-2029 Brisbane Inclusive Plan that will set the tone of the ten years to come regarding the city’s accessibility policy. 

Will Brisbane be the worldwide accessibility leader by 2029 outperforming major european, american and asian cities? 

See you in ten years!

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Between 2012 and 2017, the Council has invested $200 million in implementing the Brisbane Access and Inclusion Plan dedicating part of its effort on Pedestrian mobility and transport. Of the overall amount, approximately $6.8 million were fully dedicated each year to make the city more accessible for all its citizens.

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

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The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal AccessibilityWith 1.36 million passengers per day, the Montreal metro is the first network in Canada and the third in North America behind New York City and Mexico City. The network, which was inaugurated on October 14, 1966...

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powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

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

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

How to Maintain Pedestrian Accessibility When Carrying out Street Works?

How to Maintain Pedestrian Accessibility When Carrying out Street Works?

How to Maintain Pedestrian Accessibility When Carrying out Street Works?

 

When street works and road works impact the road network, the design of accessible routes is essential to ensure that everyone, whether disabled or not, can move safely. If our sidewalks are adapted to our daily movements, their modifications related to punctual or long-term development activities generate multiple nuisances including the disruption of accessible routes for pedestrians.

Among the most affected pedestrians, the disabled.

How can utility companies safely carry out road works while taking into account the needs of the most vulnerable people in their journeys?

Let’s round up the problems encountered, the good practices in such events and the proven solutions in terms of accessibility on construction sites in our cities.

 

Why value street works’ accessibility?

Who is concerned?

Pedestrians that are the most affected by changes in urban space are people with disabilities. Several types of disabilities can affect a pedestrian’s ability to move safely on a construction site: hearing, visual, motor and mental disabilities.

These forms of disabilities represent about 15% of the global population.

 

What are the difficulties encountered?

 

People with visual impairment need a physical environment that is free of sharp edges, uneven levels, and obstructions that can cause tripping or falling.

Some of the difficulties that a visually impaired pedestrian will often face on road and street works include:

⊗ Not knowing the area is being rebuild until it is reached;

⊗ Not knowing if the sidewalk is closed or if a secure walkway has been laid out;

⊗ Not knowing if the street has to be crossed, you have to go straight or turn back and take another route;

⊗ Not knowing if someone nearby could help;

⊗ Not knowing if the construction site is free of any potentially dangerous obstacles.

 

People with reduced mobility mostly use a walking stick, crutches or a wheelchair to get around. Because of their mobility problems, they usually have trouble moving through narrow passages, turning around, and walking down stairs, which is why the installation of ramps is essential to maintaining access.

Pedestrians with reduced mobility also face significant challenges in the event of street works and road works, especially when:

⊗ Temporary access ramps are too steep, flickering or slippery;

⊗ Passages or maneuvers are too narrow for wheelchairs.

Deaf people may have difficulty in:

⊗ Hearing any warning signals;

⊗ Communicating with the workers;

⊗ Maintaining good visibility on the traffic;

⊗ Concentrating because of the background noise.

As for people with mental or psychological disabilities, the difficulties can be related to:

⊗ Lack of landmarks in case of modified itineraries;

⊗ Difficulty locating oneself on maps detailing the construction site;

⊗ Stress management related to the presence of street works;

⊗ Difficulty to reach the usual route and find one’s bearings.

 

Street works’ good practices

It is always the responsibility of site managers to make sure that pedestrians passing the works are safe. This means protecting them from both the works and passing traffic. Site managers must take into account the needs of children, older people and of course disabled people, having particular regard for visually impaired people. 

In order to do this they must provide a suitable barrier system that safely separates pedestrians from hazards and provides a safe route suitable for people using wheelchairs, mobility scooters, prams or pushchairs. Always be on the lookout for pedestrians who seem confused or who are having difficulty negotiating a temporary route, and be prepared to offer assistance.

The Department for Transport of the United Kingdom as issued a Code of Practice “Safety at Street Works and Road Works” in 2013. This document is a relevant example of good practices to carry out during street works in order to ensure accessibility to all users.

 

Protecting pedestrians with a barrier system

If the works are on or near a footway, then there is a risk that pedestrians might enter the working space. The working space will often contain a number of hazards that could harm pedestrians. For example, pedestrians might trip over material, fall into excavations or be struck by moving or falling equipment.

At all static works, pedestrians must be protected by a continuous system of barriers. Where a works site can be approached by pedestrians crossing from the opposite side of the road, barriers should be placed all around the excavation, even when pedestrians are not diverted into the carriageway. 

While working at a site, site managers must: 

⊗ Check that signs and barriers are still in place;

⊗ Ensure that materials or machinery do not go above or move into the pedestrian space;

⊗ Keep a lookout to prevent pedestrians entering the working space. If so, they must stop immediately all machinery movements and escort the pedestrians back onto a safe route.

Ensure the continuity of pedestrian paths

In the event of street alteration, it is essential to ensure accessible continuity of the pedestrian route, taking into account the needs of all users: the elderly, disabled, children, etc. The new path must be installed in priority on the same side of the road, and, as a last resort, on the opposite sidewalk. This could mean, for example, closing the footway and placing a ‘Footway closed’ sign at the works and an advance ‘Footway closed ahead’ sign at a location where it is safe for people to cross the road. It may be necessary to provide footway ramps on either side of the road at this location.

Another alternative, would be to offer assistance to those who might have difficulty to navigate, including wheelchair or mobility scooter users, visually impaired people, or people with pushchairs.

Ideally, the footway should be a minimum of 1.5 metres wide for temporary situations but if this cannot be achieved, the existing footway can be reduced to an absolute minimum of 1 metre unobstructed width.

 

What accessibility solution for visually impaired people?

 

Temporary signages contribute to the accessibility of urban worksites for a large part of the population but they still leave behind 286 million visually impaired people around the world. Indeed, conventional temporary signage does not alert to the presence of a building site and behavior to adopt in case of vision problems.

The human assistance plays a leading role in this case. On-site staff assistance can provide an answer to people in need but is not entirely satisfactory to ensure constant safety and full autonomy for visually impaired people.

The temporary beacon iBalise developed by the company Serfim is a mobile audio device that informs which path to take if changes are affecting the roadway. The latter is triggered remotely with the universal standard remote control used in particular to activate the messages of permanent audio beacons and accessible pedestrian signal. Audio content and volume can be adjusted in accordance to the needs on-site.

 

Open data: a universal accessibility solution

You are using a stroller and you want to avoid an area of ​​road works that would make you cross a busy street? You are using crutches and you prefer to take the shortest route taking into account alteration of your usual pathway? We are all one day likely to face a situation of temporary reduction of our mobility. Thus it becomes essential to be able to plan our trip upstream to avoid any difficulties.

The data collected is vital to 20% of the population living with permanent disabilities and useful to 100% of the population.

To meet this challenge of universal accessibility, the city of Angers proposed in 2017 a mobile application “Angers Info-Works” to alert its citizens of any changes to road and pedestrian routes. By selecting their destination address, users are informed through personalized alerts of any itinerary changes. Like the city of Angers, Streetco – a collaborative GPS for pedestrians – provides information on the presence of temporary obstacles.

Often free, mobile applications are a medium with a strong potential within reach of all.

But a new medium is upsetting that balance. New York City is currently testing a 3rd generation of accessible pedestrian signals at a crossroads in the city center for the first time. Attached to the masts of the intersections, this equipment will eventually be able to transmit information in audio format on the state of the road and changes of routes in the event of construction sites.

If the tests are conclusive, the prospect of collecting data and transmitting it in real time to users, particularly to blind and visually impaired people, provides a very promising urban accessibility solution. This will be interesting to watch…

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It is always the responsibility of site managers to make sure that pedestrians passing the works are safe. This means protecting them from both the works and passing traffic. Site managers must take into account the needs of children, older people and of course disabled people, having particular regard for visually impaired people. 

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal AccessibilityWith 1.36 million passengers per day, the Montreal metro is the first network in Canada and the third in North America behind New York City and Mexico City. The network, which was inaugurated on October 14, 1966...

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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.

Public Transport Information Accessibility: 5 Solutions for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Users

Public Transport Information Accessibility: 5 Solutions for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Users

Public Transport Information Accessibility: 5 Solutions for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Users

 

“Due to an accident on the track, the metro will be stopped for a few moments, thank you for your understanding”, “Line 21 is diverted due to road work, exceptionally the bus will not stop at the next three stations”.

All these audio messages familiar to our ears and broadcast in our stations and in our public transports are essential to ensure comfort and safety of travelers especially in case of emergency or disruption. But the information must be accessible to the public for whom it is intended. The audio format, if it has the advantage of being direct, excludes all users with a hearing loss, ie 466 million people worldwide (source: who.int).

So how to ensure quality information for hearing impaired users when using transportation? Let’s focus on regulations, needs and existing solutions for deaf and hard of hearing public transport users.

Regulation and accessibility of passenger information

In the United States equal access to information of transportation is ensured with the Americans with Disability Act. Under Title II, agencies which operate at a local or state level are required to provide equal access to all services offered by the organization including public transportation. A public entity must ensure that its communications with deaf citizens are as effective as communications with others.

In Canada, The Guide to Accessibility for Intercity Bus Services states that  “Public announcements should be provided in both audio and visual formats, if possible, in all passenger service areas inside terminals.

In the United States and in accordance with the ADA, the National Association of Deaf (NAD) continues to advocate that all transportation systems (airline, train, bus, subway, etc.) make all audible information accessible by providing the same information in a visual format.

Different laws, for different services exists in different countries. The transportation network managers are responsible for their application at local and state level.

Understand the difficulties and needs of deaf people in public transport

In this regulatory context, where the rights of the disabled public are addressed, people who are deaf or hard of hearing still face accessibility problems, particularly when broadcasting audio messages in the event of an emergency or disruption.

This is compounded by other challenges such as trip planning, ticket purchase, orientation and interaction with travelers and staff.

If the deaf population is very heterogeneous, the perception of the surrounding world remains similar from one person to another. From the reduction to the renunciation of any form of mobility, we find mainly the following inconveniences:

  • difficulties in perceiving sound information
  • annoyance due to noise in degraded sound environments
  • loss of balance, fatigue, headaches, tinnitus etc.

When traveling, people with hearing loss need written support that is broadcast simultaneously with the spoken message, to ensure the same level of information and therefore security and service as the rest of the population. Also, to ensure their comfort, priority seating and a quiet environment should be provided wherever possible.

5 solutions to compensate for audio information in transport

The written format remains the most popular format for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, although it does not take into account the needs of people with reading difficulties due to a disability or a lack of knowledge of the language.

A study conducted by UNIVACCESS in 2018 identified universal solutions for public transport for people with disabilities, particularly for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Here are the 5 most frequently identified solutions.

#1. SMS alert

Among the solutions listed are universal solutions such as the SMS alert in case of disruption. This initiative, set up in cities such as Grenoble, Auckland, Geneva and King County, among others, allows users to follow the status of their mode of transport in real time or to receive specific notifications to a route, especially during disruptions.

#2. The light beep

Many cities around the world like Lisbon, Lyon or Singapore have equipped their metro and tramway doors with a flashing light inside and outside. The light accompanies the beep to prevent any crossing of the doors when they close.

#3. Information screens

Information screens are sprouting around the world, like in Manchester or Barcelona. Located on platforms, stations and inside vehicles and wagons, they provide users with useful and reliable written information. Most screens on board inform on the next stop. Some go as far as announcing the places of interest and the shops nearby.

#4. Training of agents in sign language

Some cities like Toulouse have introduce their agents to sign language. Although it is only practiced by a handful of deaf people in the world, its use in stations is a real asset for the users concerned.

#5. Traveler information applications

Different transportation operators thought the world have developed their proper mobile application warning of possible delays, train changes, platform numbers and even on board announcements.

The City of Barcelona for example provides users with an application calculating in real time the number of minutes remaining before the arrival of the next bus. The city of London offers a similar service thanks to a route calculator with simple and adapted choices.

MaaS: an all-in-one tool for tomorrow’s accessibility

What is MaaS? This article tells you everything you need to know!

MaaS-type applications such as Moovit and CityMapper will soon offer an all-in-one solution to promote the mobility of all public and private transport users. From travel planning, to ticket purchase, guidance assistance and real-time information dissemination, MaaS is emerging as the ideal innovation for people with hearing loss.

In conclusion

The dissemination of the right information at the right time is an asset for transport services. For people who do not hear or hear little, lighting, human and technological solutions (screens, SMS and mobile applications) have been tried and tested in many cities around the world. Knowing that after 50 years, one in three has hearing difficulties, compensating for audio information remains a major challenge for transport operators.

All these amenities are universal solutions that can serve the greatest number, disabled or not. Investing in the accessibility of deaf and hard of hearing people, is indeed a guarantee to the access of your network to the greatest number.

You want to make your public transports accessible to disabled people? Check out our article: Making Public Transport Information Accessible to Disabled People

media

When traveling, people with hearing loss need written support that is broadcast simultaneously with the spoken message, to ensure the same level of information and therefore security and service as the rest of the population.

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

follow us!

more articles

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal AccessibilityWith 1.36 million passengers per day, the Montreal metro is the first network in Canada and the third in North America behind New York City and Mexico City. The network, which was inaugurated on October 14, 1966...

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.