7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

Two wheelchair users share drinks with other people

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

 

Who hasn’t been uncomfortable dealing with a person with disabilities? We’ve all been afraid to drop a clanger, to be clumsy and to behave badly. It’s normal to feel disconcerted in a new situation when we don’t understand the appropriate codes. But it’s actually not that difficult. Here are a few tips that will work every time, regardless of the disability type of the person you’re talking with!

1. Stay natural

Alright, it’s easier said than done… But you need to realize that the person in front of you is above all a human being with the same needs as anyone. Meaning that past the initial moment of surprise, even the moment of panic (because this can also happen…), you simply have to say hello and start talking to the person in front of you.

2. Ask questions

Yes, it’s a new situation and yes, it’s normal not to have all the keys in hand. Simply ask the person you’re talking with what you can do for them. They know best how to explain it to you.

3. Don’t think for them

Because we want to do things right, we often tend to anticipate what a person with disabilities will say or do. But it’s a trap! There’s a good chance you’ll be wide of the mark concerning their expectations and this may cause frustration that could make the person with disabilities aggressive towards you! Give them time to express themselves.

4. Offer your help, don’t impose it

Some people with disabilities don’t dare to ask for help. You’ll make it easier for them if the offer to help comes from you. But do it in an open way so that the person you’re talking to can feel free to tell you if they need it or not.

5. Make sure you’re talking to the person with disabilities before anything else

If a person with disabilities is with someone like a caregiver, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t communicate with you. It’s in fact rarely the case. But even if it was, it’s not a reason to ignore them in the conversation. Just speak directly to them. The caregiver they’re with will naturally take over if it’s necessary.

6. Don’t take offense if some behaviors seem strange to you

There’s nothing more normal than to feel disconcerted facing an attitude or a behavior that’s out of the ordinary. But you need to realize that some types of disabilities may be the cause and that it’s completely out of control. Try to disregard it and treat the person with disabilities as an adult no matter what.

7. Don’t pet a dog without first asking his owner

Obviously, this advice concerns every dog but it’s particularly the case with guide dogs or service dogs used for other types of disabilities. Petting them while working could distract them and thus put in danger the people they’re accompanying.

 

We hope these basic tips will enable you to feel more confident next time you’re dealing with a person with disabilities in your venue or somewhere else! You’ll find other tips adapted to specific types of disabilities such as 12 Tips to Welcome a Deaf or Hard of Hearing Person and 9 Tips to Welcome a Person with an Intellectual Disability.

Please keep in mind that there are trainings to help you and your personnel best assist customers with disabilities. Thanks to qualified organizations, you’ll be able to talk about dealing with people with disabilities without any taboos!

 

 

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A group of people admiring the sunset

Some people with disabilities don’t dare to ask for help. You’ll make it easier for them if the offer to help comes from you.

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Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities  Who hasn’t been uncomfortable dealing with a person with disabilities? We’ve all been afraid to drop a clanger, to be clumsy and to behave badly. It’s normal to feel disconcerted in a new situation when we don’t...

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...

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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.

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

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

A machine learning brain

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

Many of us think that artificial intelligence represents an abstract and futuristic notion we only see in sci-fi films with humanoid robots and holograms. However it’s more and more grounded in our reality reaching various fields and categories of people including people with disabilities. Artificial intelligence truly revolutionizes accessibility and inclusion! Thanks to AI technology solutions, people with disabilities can drastically improve their everyday lives. 

We had previously seen that smartphones are a powerful tool that help users with a visual impairment. Indeed, many apps enable them to remain autonomous. For example, thanks to Seeing AI, visually impaired people can easily read their mail by placing documents under the smartphone camera. AI technology can apply to any type of disability profile. For instance, people with reduced mobility can control everything at home just by using their voice with a virtual personal assistant such as Amazon Alexa.

Let’s take a look at AI and how it can enhance accessibility thanks to a few examples of innovative solutions! The future starts now!

 

What is artificial intelligence and how does it work regarding accessibility?

Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to smart machines or algorithms that are capable of performing cognitive tasks usually made by humans. This includes different technology solutions that mimic humans and use logic from playing chess to solving equations. Machine learning is one of the technologies that is part of AI: when algorithms are exposed to more data, they can learn and improve from it in order to anticipate consumers’ needs. For example, Google uses machine learning: its algorithms collect what Internet users searched and what they liked on social networks in order to provide more personalized search results and recommendations. 

Nearly 4 billion people in the world use Google search engine, therefore AI, which is perceived as a social good. Anybody can have access to it including people with disabilities. Technology in general and artificial intelligence in particular have a key role in accessibility. It’s not just about finding the latest innovations but mostly about providing a solution at the service of a category of people in order to improve their lives. What can AI do towards accessibility?

It can remove accessibility barriers through different solutions:

⊗ Image recognition for people with a visual impairment,

⊗ Facial recognition for people with a visual impairment,

⊗ Lip-reading recognition for people with a hearing impairment,

⊗ Text summarization for people with a mental impairment,

⊗ Real-time captioning or translations for people with a hearing impairment or even people who don’t speak the language.

AI has a huge impact on people with disabilities’ everyday lives: a person with a mental impairment can easily comprehend the world around him thanks to text summarization. What may at first be a complicated message to decipher turns out to be an easy-to-understand text. Things that at first were difficult or impossible for them are now easily accessible on a daily basis. AI enables people with disabilities to step into a world where their difficulties are understood and taken into account. Technology adapts and helps transform the world into an inclusive place with artificial intelligence accessibility. There is a certain sense of equality as AI puts everybody, with or without disabilities, at the same level.

 

What are the benefits of artificial intelligence regarding accessibility for people with disabilities?

We’ve seen the main points regarding AI accessibility but concretely, where is AI put into action to improve people with disabilities’ lives? How does AI help them remain autonomous? Let’s focus on 4 major situations where AI adds value:

Communicating with others and being connected

Depending on the type of disability and profile, communicating with others can be a challenge. The same holds true for staying connected to others in a world that’s more and more digitized with the growing importance of social media and our dependence to the Internet. But technology and AI leave no one behind and can be at the service of people with disabilities. A lot of apps use artificial intelligence to favor accessibility.

For blind or visually impaired people:

 VoiceOver: a screen reader directly integrated on iPhones. Although its main use is to enunciate any email or textual message, VoiceOver also uses AI to describe apps icons, the battery level and even in part images. 

 TalkBack: the equal of VoiceOver for Android smartphones. It enables users to fully use their smartphones.

 Siri: iPhones virtual assistant. Thanks to voice control, users simply have to enunciate their request: from doing a Google search or dictating a text message to send to a friend. People with a visual impairment can easily use Siri and stay in touch with others.

 Cortana: a virtual assistant created by Microsoft and implemented on Windows. It helps blind or visually impaired users to navigate on their computer using simply their voice. In a sense, it’s similar to Siri.

 Google Assistant: an app activated by voice control. Users can easily set up an alarm or manage their schedule, the same way as Siri.

For deaf or hard of hearing people:

 Virtual assistants like Siri and Google Assistant for the users to fully use their smartphones and be connected to others.

 Ava: an instant transcription app that uses AI to instantly transcribe the conversation of a group of people. Its algorithm adds punctuation, the name of the person who is talking and the necessary vocabulary from the user’s dictionary. An easy way for people with a hearing impairment to be included and to follow a conversation with several people without lip-reading. 

 RogerVoice: a French instant transcription app for group conversations available in 90 languages. It works the same way as Ava.

For people with physical disabilities:

⊗ Virtual assistants like Siri, Google Assistant and Google Voice Access: people with reduced mobility can use their smartphone by voice command. Google Voice Access was especially created for people with reduced dexterity.

⊗ IFTTT: an app that connects other apps so that the user with poor dexterity can use all his smartphone’s functionalities without struggling. It creates combinations with the apps to automatically perform tasks such as reading an email aloud and sending a tweet.

Even people with speech impediments can benefit from AI technology with the app Voiceitt. Thanks to machine learning, Voiceitt can easily understand people with brain injuries or Parkinson’s and whose speech may first seem difficult to apprehend. This app normalizes their speech to create an output of audio or text so that people with speech impediments can still communicate with others and be understood.

Of course, AI apps and smartphones aren’t the only way for people with disabilities to communicate and to be connected to others. Web accessibility keeps improving to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) thus providing the same access and services to everybody regardless of their disabilities. 

Indeed designing an accessible website can be quite tricky but AI technology turns out to be a game-changer. A site’s design is scanned and analyzed thanks to machine learning. It can then improve its accessibility through many points:

⊗ A facial recognition with an AI software to replace CAPTCHAs that can be difficult to find for people with a visual impairment,

⊗ A keyboard navigation optimization via the “Tab” button for people with physical disabilities,

⊗ A voice-recognition or a speech-recognition technology like Google’s Project Euphonia for people with speech impairments to use the Internet thanks to sounds and gestures,

 Audio descriptions content for people with a visual impairment,

 Captions and translations of online videos for people with a hearing impairment like Microsoft Translator,

 Readjustments of graphic elements such as fonts, colors and spacing for people with a visual impairment,

⊗ A built-in library of idioms, slang and phrases that are unusually used for people with a mental impairment.

Machine learning mimics a browser, the same way it mimics humans, to automatically adapt what’s on the screen and make it accessible for people with disabilities. Artificial intelligence technology fully enhances accessibility and inclusion.

Getting around

For people with disabilities, mobility proves to be one of the most challenging issues to overcome. How can wheelchair users get around in the city in an autonomous and serene way when they constantly need to be aware of the location of lowered pavements and accessible toilets? In our article How to Help People with Disabilities Get a Better Experience on the Subway?, we saw that people with disabilities need to rigorously prepare every trip they make. Luckily for them, a lot of navigation apps based on AI technology can help them gain more autonomy and more spontaneity when they’re getting around.

 Google Maps: one of the most used GPS apps around the world. Visually impaired people or wheelchair users can prepare their trip in advance and visualize their route and the best means of transportation to use according to their profile. Thanks to the “wheelchair accessible” option, wheelchair users can know where ramps and elevators are located in the city. Plus the feature “accessible places” is useful for them to have more information about the layout of many premises: entrance, parking spots, restrooms, seating arrangements… This feature is also used by people with a visual impairment to find the exact location of a building entrance.

Moovit: a great app for people who use public transportation. It provides real-time traffic information and turns out to be helpful for people with a visual impairment when voice announcements aren’t activated on the bus for example. 

Wheelmap: it lists and maps all accessible public venues (restaurants, shops, cafés…). Even users can add data and information concerning the accessibility level of places. 

Soundscape: an app that describes blind people their surroundings with audio 3D technology. They can easily be aware of the points of interest near them and the intersections. Quite convenient to enjoy the city.

Evelity: the first indoor wayfinding app for people with disabilities. Regardless of their profile, they can easily navigate inside complex and busy places such as subway networks, colleges and universities, shopping malls, stadiums… Evelity works like a GPS and gives step by step instructions. It’s tailor-made to fit the users’ profiles and their needs:

→ Visually impaired users can set it up to work with VoiceOver and TalkBack screen readers so that they can have audio instructions.

→ Hearing impaired users can use text descriptions and icons.

→ Wheelchair users and people with reduced mobility benefit from optimized routes.

→ People with a cognitive impairment have simplified interfaces.

This innovative navigation app for people with disabilities is the perfect example of AI technology that enhances accessibility in general and people’s everyday lives in particular. 

Self-driving cars (also called autonomous cars or driverless cars) represent a new solution for the mobility of people with disabilities, regardless of their disabilities since they can help them get around more independently. People don’t need to ask a relative or to book a service when they need to get around by car. Self-driving cars use sensors, cameras, radars and AI to get to the chosen destination. Their algorithms collect all the necessary data about their environment like traffic lights, curbs, pedestrians…, by inputting Google Maps and Google Street View. Many companies from the car industry test or develop self-driving cars.

Living independently 

AI technology concerns any field and can thus enhance accessibility even at home. Virtual assistants can improve everybody’s lives and it’s particularly striking with people with disabilities. We’d previously talked about Siri on iPhones. But at home, with smart speakers like Amazon Echo with Alexa and Google Home with Google Assistant, people with disabilities can control everything by voice: from turning on the lights to setting up an alarm or listening to music in the living room. 

Any home object can be connected which means that a blind person can set up their oven just by asking Alexa or that a person with reduced dexterity can lower a room temperature just by using their voice. 

Even before arriving home, people with disabilities can still control their virtual assistants at home thanks to the app IFTTT. It connects different apps together, including virtual assistants like Alexa, to create combinations called “applets”. It’s very convenient for people with reduced dexterity: any single task can automatically be done by voice control. They can for example increase their thermostat on their way from work to be at ease once they arrive home. 

Having a connected smart home can sometimes be life saving: if a person with disabilities falls, a system previously set up can call up emergency services. People with disabilities can thus live alone knowing that they’re safe if something happens.

AI technology solutions enable people with disabilities to gain more autonomy and be comfortable in their own homes. AI takes accessibility to the next level. 

Accessing the same services as anybody

Inclusivity means that everybody has the right to access any services regardless of their profiles and disabilities. Blind people can read thanks to Braille and hearing impaired people can enjoy a movie thanks to subtitles. Here are a few non-exhaustive examples of artificial intelligence technology at the service of accessibility:

Braille AI Tutor: an innovative solution to compensate the lack of Braille teachers. Thanks to AI-based speech recognition and gamification, blind students can learn Braille more independently. Education represents a fundamental right. Accessing to an education is key for blind people to find a job and be included in society.

Seeing AI on iOS: an app designed for visually impaired people that can read and describe all types of documents placed under the smartphone camera such as banknotes or mail. It can even recognize images, colors and faces thus providing details on people’s emotions. 

Lookout on Android: the equivalent app of Seeing AI. It has a Quick Scan Mode that can skim through a text.

Google’s Project Guideline: an AI-based solution that enables blind people to run by themselves. With just a harness around their waist, their Android smartphone connected to it and headphones, blind people can run without any external help following a guideline painted on the ground. 

Accessible documents thanks to Microsoft Accessibility Checker or Adobe Accessibility Checker: students and employees with disabilities can still have access to information in order to succeed.

The medical industry also benefits from AI with robot-assisted technology for more precision during surgery or data collection to provide a more accurate diagnosis. But for people with disabilities, this can represent a huge progress in providing a better quality of life. The most striking example is the invention of an exoskeleton powered with AI that enables paralyzed people to use their legs again: they can stand up and walk. A breakthrough that’s not only technological but also medical for people with motor impairments!

These are just a few of the AI technologies used to improve people with disabilities’ lives in various fields as many more solutions are available and developed whether by startups or large corporations such as Google and Microsoft. By having a user-centered approach, artificial intelligence technologies use inclusive design to conceive solutions that best meet the needs of people with disabilities to enhance accessibility. Indeed, AI technology enables them to gain more autonomy whether they’re at home enjoying a movie with subtitles or at work reading an accessible document making the world more accessible and inclusive to them.

Want to know more about apps that people with disabilities use in their everyday lives? Read our articles: 

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

13 Must-Have Apps for Blind or Visually Impaired People in 2020

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

Posted on March 5, 2021

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

AI enables people with disabilities to step into a world where their difficulties are understood and taken into account.

writer

Carole Martinez

Content Manager junior

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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities  Who hasn’t been uncomfortable dealing with a person with disabilities? We’ve all been afraid to drop a clanger, to be clumsy and to behave badly. It’s normal to feel disconcerted in a new situation when we don’t...

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities  Who hasn’t been uncomfortable dealing with a person with disabilities? We’ve all been afraid to drop a clanger, to be clumsy and to behave badly. It’s normal to feel disconcerted in a new situation when we don’t...

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

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Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

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

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

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.

 

media

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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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities  Who hasn’t been uncomfortable dealing with a person with disabilities? We’ve all been afraid to drop a clanger, to be clumsy and to behave badly. It’s normal to feel disconcerted in a new situation when we don’t...

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities  Who hasn’t been uncomfortable dealing with a person with disabilities? We’ve all been afraid to drop a clanger, to be clumsy and to behave badly. It’s normal to feel disconcerted in a new situation when we don’t...

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

Sign up now for our newsletter.

Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

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

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

How 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…

media

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. 

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Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities  Who hasn’t been uncomfortable dealing with a person with disabilities? We’ve all been afraid to drop a clanger, to be clumsy and to behave badly. It’s normal to feel disconcerted in a new situation when we don’t...

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities  Who hasn’t been uncomfortable dealing with a person with disabilities? We’ve all been afraid to drop a clanger, to be clumsy and to behave badly. It’s normal to feel disconcerted in a new situation when we don’t...

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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.

Urban mobility of the most vulnerable: 5 minutes to understand

Urban mobility of the most vulnerable: 5 minutes to understand

Urban Mobility of the Most Vulnerable: 5 Minutes to Understand

 

Ensuring urban mobility for all is a major challenge. Many people who are vulnerable because of their physical condition, mental health, age or strong cultural barriers can not move independently. The sidewalks that we walk every day without difficulty can be a source of anxiety and factor of social withdrawal for the most fragile people.

In the light of different surveys, we will try to understand the behavior and needs of fragile people in their travels. What are the difficulties encountered ? What are the measures to be taken to improve their experience in the urban space? This article takes stock of the situation.

Make the city “legible”

According to Kevin Lynch’s book Image of the City (1960), the city is made “legible” thanks to five structuring elements: streets, neighborhoods, landmarks, boundaries and nodes (junction and concentration points). Pedestrians rely on these physical forms to find their bearings. They are meant to offer the user the opportunity to create a mental image of the places he or she walks.

When readability is lacking, apprehension takes the lead. This anxiety can become a real source of stress that paralyzes the most vulnerable people so that they give up moving and lose autonomy.

The perception of urban space varies from one user to another according to his physical and mental abilities, his personal experience and his culture. These personal filters encourage the consideration of the capacities of the most diverse users.

Priority goes therefore to the “legibility” of the city to improve the feeling of safety of all users.

Who are the most fragile people?

Disabled people

“About 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability, of whom 2-4% experience significant difficulties in functioning.” WHO

Disability typologies are grouped under six main categories:

⊗ mobility impairment

⊗ sensory disability

⊗ psychic handicap

⊗ mental disability

⊗ cognitive impairment

⊗ debilitating diseases

Among them, there are people with several disabilities of the same degree as deafblindness and people with a severe disability with multiple expressions resulting in extreme restriction of autonomy.

Old people

“Between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years old will nearly double from 12% to 22%.”(WHO)

The elderly are often affected by gait disorders, cognitive disorders and sensory disorders.

Foreigners

Cities around the world are not alike and that’s good! Culture is indeed at the heart of urban development. Some tourists and especially some immigrants can lose their bearings because of a different conception of the city as they know it and the lack of knowledge of the language. In American for exemple, over 76 million tourists from all over the world are visiting the country every year. In England, over 40 million visits have been recorded in 2017.

Other factors

Everyone can feel vulnerable, the time of a trip. Distraction, temporary tiredness or punctual stress are all factors that affect physical or intellectual abilities.

Movement strategies of the most vulnerable people

 

The Center for Studies and Expertise on Risks, the Environment, Mobility and Development (CEREMA) has initiated about twenty commented journeys in urban environments with so-called “fragile” people. The objective of this study is to highlight the difficulties of certain urban amenities and the travel choices of the most vulnerable people to solve these difficulties.

The perception of public space by people with disabilities

People with visual impairments face many technological and social challenges on a daily basis. But that’s without counting the environmental difficulties, especially in their movements in the city. The design of the public space is rather intended and thought for people who have all the senses. The experience of space without the eyes rests mainly on the decipherment of the sound and tactile cues, as for example:

 

 

⊗ attention to sidewalk changes that signal a zone change

⊗ listening to the noise of cars to appreciate the proximity of the street

⊗ the attention paid to the arrangement of the trees to know the position of the buildings, etc.

To move safely, visually impaired people make travel choices that vary from person to person such as:

⊗ be accompanied by a person

⊗ favor the streets at right angles and with few shops or terraces to avoid obstacles and crowds

⊗ walk along the walls to cross wide open spaces,

⊗ follow the GPS directions by choosing the shortest route or the one with the least turns

Deaf people, who have invisible disabilities, also find it difficult to decipher their environment. A study conducted by the Gare de Lyon in Paris shows that among users with all types of disabilities, it is the people with hearing problems who have the most difficulty to achieve a journey. This result can be explained by “the natural invisibility of hearing loss that does not generate spontaneous assistance from the public or staff (…) but also by the reluctance of the people involved to announce their disability”, says the study.

To decipher their environment, deaf people favor visual ambiances, kinesthetic or olfactory cues and breaks in the atmosphere or certain urban furniture. They rely mainly on written inscriptions, characteristic smells and break points.

In terms of choice of travel, the CEREMA study shows that deaf people generally avoid approaching areas considered dangerous as water bodies.

As for people with reduced mobility, they prefer a route adapted to their physical condition. Wheelchair users need alternatives to stairs, steps and slopes equal or greater than 1:12. In either case, they take care to prepare their trip upstream.

For people with mental, cognitive and psychic disabilities the understanding of the urban space is often altered by the worry and stress of the unknown. The disability can be aggravated when the logic of the organization of space is not made explicit. In this case, the person tends to give up moving. Travel choices focus on familiar routes, close to home and leave no room for the unexpected.

Public space for the elderly

Older people may also have sensory, physical or motor disabilities, or many at the same time. They are subject to stress, fatigue, memory loss. It can be difficult for them to read road signs or a map because of vision problems.

According to a March 2016 Observatory Mobility (OMNIL) survey, the main reason for moving for people over the age of 60 is the home-purchase journey.

Older people concentrate their trips to do their shopping near their homes. They will take their time, sit on public benches to rest, go outside of the period of influence…

The case of foreigners

For some foreigners, the city they discover may not have the architectural codes they know. In addition, the lack of knowledge of the language is an impediment to decipher road signs and ask for directions.

Preferred travel strategies are the use of a GPS or a map (which can be a distraction 

and can cause accidents) and the assistance of passers-by.

Suggested improvements to enhance urban mobility of fragile people

Facilitating access to the city by all means designing more ergonomic urban spaces. Urban planners and public decision-makers must take into account the mobility difficulties of the entire population and set benchmarks to facilitate their orientation and their choice of trips.

Here are some ways to improve urban mobility for all:

⊗ Provide GPS-type tools for people with disabilities to calculate a route based on a specific disability

⊗ Design clear and visible signage by all to avoid endangerment by looking for clues

⊗ Install audio beacons in key city locations and transportation networks to guide visually impaired

⊗ Securing pedestrian crossings for the visually impaired by installing

⊗ Accessible Pedestrian SignalsAvoid the creation of obstacles on the main axes of movement which are the reference routes for the most fragile users

⊗ Consult the users to seek feedbacks and the experts in order to propose adequate solutions

⊗ Make available and maintain accessibility equipment and street furniture, especially benches to rest and promote social bonds

⊗ Delimit space changes with clear visual or tactile cues

⊗ Limit spaces to a proper function to promote readability

⊗ Focus on the quality of public spaces ambiances to make them reassuring and welcoming

We are all vulnerable pedestrians. Tourist, expatriate, permanently or temporary disabled, subject to the tiredness of age or a busy day. This fragility, whatever its nature, induces a loss of autonomy and serenity in our travels.

A more legible city is a city that welcomes more visitors, boosts its economy and takes into account the travel choices of the entire population. Designing the city for the benefit of the most vulnerable means ensuring comfort and security for all. So consult the users and ask them about the areas to focus on to improve your city.

Start now!

media

Some tourists and especially some immigrants can lose their bearings because of a different conception of the city as they know it and the lack of knowledge of the language.

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities  Who hasn’t been uncomfortable dealing with a person with disabilities? We’ve all been afraid to drop a clanger, to be clumsy and to behave badly. It’s normal to feel disconcerted in a new situation when we don’t...

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities  Who hasn’t been uncomfortable dealing with a person with disabilities? We’ve all been afraid to drop a clanger, to be clumsy and to behave badly. It’s normal to feel disconcerted in a new situation when we don’t...

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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.

Obstacles in Public Transport: What Solutions for Physical Disability?

Obstacles in Public Transport: What Solutions for Physical Disability?

Obstacles in Public Transport: What Solutions for Physical Disability?

 

Wheelchair, crutches, bad balance, but also heavy luggage, strollers, young children… 30 to 40% of public transport users are in a situation of reduced mobility and 6.6% of the US population is living with an ambulatory disability. The removal of physical barriers is a prerequisite for their access to the transportation network, but also a huge challenge for transport network operators, especially when the infrastructure is old.

Let’s have a look at existing solutions and services. Get inspired by the transport networks that get it right!

What are the physical obstacles encountered in public transport?

 

Imagine yourself in front of a 15-inch step using a wheelchair, lengthening your trip by half an hour because of a broken down elevator, passing the safety gates with a large and heavy suitcase, going down 3 floors with your stroller and your baby in your arms, etc.

Reducing physical barriers in public transport is a real need for people with reduced mobility and physical disability.

Here are some examples of physical barriers that can be found in public transportation:

⊗ Unsuitable steps,

⊗ Significant differences in height between floors,

⊗ Long distances,

⊗ Slippery floors,

⊗ Excessive space between the platform and the vehicle,

⊗ Access heights too important.

These difficulties mainly concern people with ambulatory disabilities but can be extended to all people with reduced mobility.

 

What are the solutions to reduce physical obstacles in public transport?

 

Planning ahead: tips and tricks to travel serenely

 

To save time and avoid unpleasant surprises (elevator down, stairs at the entrance …), planning ahead is a key step.

Many websites and mobile applications, often unknown to users, allow to locate accessible places and to be informed in real time of the level of accessibility of infrastructures. Among the best known are: wheelmap and access earth.

In addition, most cities like Chicago, Toronto and London provide users with a journey planner taking into account the network’s accessibility.

 

Facilities adapted for people with reduced mobility

 

In the United States for exemple, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is the landmark civil rights law that deals with the rights of persons with disabilities. Title II of the ADA “prohibits discrimination based on disability in public transport such as city buses and public railways”. The regulation imposes certain standards on transport networks, such as the requirement to provide disability access in new vehicles and paratransit services to those who cannot use public transportation.

Some transport network operators go beyond legal obligations and address custom-made arrangements to people with motor disabilities.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of the different accessibility solutions dedicated to people with reduced mobility all over the world:

⊗ In Lyon, France, all metro stations are equipped with lifts and dedicated gates,

⊗ The subway of New-York City is equipped with AutoGate: an automatic entry/exit gate

⊗ In Montreal, all metros and buses are accessible for wheelchair users (elevators, front-door access ramps…)

⊗ In Barcelona, ​​a stop request button and a request button of the ramp has been set up in the buses to simplify the wheelchair exit,

⊗ Several metro lines in the world have a retractable threshold in order to fill the space between the platform and the vehicule,

⊗ Throughout Spain, a dedicated spot in buses is equipped with a belt and a grab bar that secures people in wheelchairs,

⊗ Many European buses have a validation terminal located in front of the access ramp preventing wheelchair users from having to move to the back of the bus,

⊗ The city of Toulouse in France has implemented a lowered card transport validation in buses.

 

Services adapted for people with reduced mobility

 

Reducing barriers in public transport also means providing services to people with motor disabilities.

Alternative modes of transport at the public transport rate is often offered in the event of a hazard and to those who cannot use public transport. In some cities, a free accompaniment service by qualified members of staff is offered. Other cities have also developed an ambulatory ambassador service. Disabled users advise and accompany those in need to better understand their difficulties and overcome them. Uber and Lyft both provide handicap-accessible transportation. Depending on the area, you may need to plan and pay more than a traditional ride. However, those private rideshare services can fill occasional needs.

 

If leaving the house is often an expedition for people faced with a reduction in mobility, this is not inevitable. As an accessibility actor of your public transport network, you have the power to improve the situation of at least 30% of your users. Lifts, access ramps, adapted furniture, real-time information on network accessibility, paperless ticketing, assistance services …, many solutions have proved successfully. Before setting up one or the other, we recommend that you look for feedback and organize a consultation with users of your network with disabilities to identify their difficulties, because what works well somewhere may need to be adapted elsewhere.

 

If you like this article you will also like this one: Making Public Transport Information Accessible to Disabled People

media

Of the nearly 2 million people with disabilities who never leave their homes, 560,000 never leave home because of transportation difficulties.

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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7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities  Who hasn’t been uncomfortable dealing with a person with disabilities? We’ve all been afraid to drop a clanger, to be clumsy and to behave badly. It’s normal to feel disconcerted in a new situation when we don’t...

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities  Who hasn’t been uncomfortable dealing with a person with disabilities? We’ve all been afraid to drop a clanger, to be clumsy and to behave badly. It’s normal to feel disconcerted in a new situation when we don’t...

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.