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...

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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.

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

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

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

 

For blind or visually impaired people, accessing simple information can sometimes be difficult. How can a nonsighted person get their bearings and choose the best route to get to their destination? Or read a document that’s not available in braille? Answer an email from a co-worker? Fortunately, technology keeps innovating and permits to assist people with a visual impairment in their everyday lives.

Indeed, 89% of them have a smartphone, a tool that truly revolutionizes their lives! If they can gain more autonomy today it’s thanks to features that are more advanced and accessible to the general public or thanks to apps that are specially designed for them. Blind or visually impaired people who find it restrictive and stressing to get around can now be more serene!

Let’s explore these apps together!

VoiceOver

VoiceOver is a screen reader that’s integrated into iPhones that, as its name indicates, enunciates emails or other textual messages aloud. It’s up to the user to choose the speaking rate and the volume.

Not to forget that braille also remains an option for those who have a braille keyboard to connect to the smartphone or who just want to write in braille directly on the screen of their iPhone.

VoiceOver also describes all the elements on the screen such as apps icons, the battery level and even in part images thanks to artificial intelligence. All the information is thus accessible!

TalkBack

Android smartphones also have a similar screen reader with TalkBack. It follows the same guideline as for iPhones: reading textual elements aloud, exploring the screen, using braille with BrailleBack… Everything is set for an optimal and smooth navigation!

Siri

Directly integrated into iPhones, Siri is an easy-to-use vocal assistant. For blind or visually impaired people, for whom finding and clicking on the right button can be difficult, using a voice control enables them to save time!

They just need to ask Siri to call a contact, to send a dictated text message and everything is therefore easier!

Google Assistant

Also activated by voice control, Google Assistant has the same functionality as Siri. The user totally controls their smartphone according to their needs: sending an email, setting up an alarm, managing their schedule…

Available on both Android and iOS

Google Maps

It’s one of the most popular GPS navigation apps. Being able to anticipate their route is essential for blind and visually impaired people. And this also applies for other types of profiles in general since people with disabilities use 30% more the GPS on their smartphone than the rest of the population. (Find out all the facts and figures concerning their use of smartphones in our infographic.)

Google Maps enables users to have access to all the real-time traffic information which is ideal when choosing the right means of public transportation!

The app even provides a new feature called “Accessible Places” that enables users to even more apprehend their environment thanks to information concerning the seating plan of a restaurant, the exact location of a building entrance…

A precious help to serenely get around!

Available on both Android and iOS

Moovit

For those who are used to taking public transportation, this app lists all the possible means of transportation, their itineraries, their timetables and other information on real-time traffic.

The app even indicates the users the names of stops while on the bus, the tram or the subway. This proves to be essential for blind or visually impaired people when voice announcements aren’t activated.

Available on both Android and iOS

Microsoft Soundscape

Developed by Microsoft, this app is particularly innovative since it uses audio 3D technology to describe blind or visually impaired people their environment. 

Soundscape enables them to better apprehend their surroundings, to call out intersections and to find their bearings in the city with great facility. And all of that by having their smartphone in their pocket: their hands remain free for their white cane or their guide dog!

Available on iOS

Evelity

Developed by Okeenea Digital, this app is the first indoor wayfinding solution for people with a visual impairment to navigate in complex venues such as museums or universities! It works like a GPS.

Compatible with VoiceOver and TalkBack, Evelity provides audio instructions to users to guide them step by step. People with disabilities can easily find the reception desk or the classroom without needing to know the premises in advance.

Available on both Android and iOS

MyMoveo

We’re once again on the theme of mobility with MyMoveo developed by Okeenea Tech. This app enables blind or visually impaired users to activate connected Accessible Pedestrian Signals aBeacon to know when the pedestrian signal is green and thus safely cross the street.

Users can even use the app to activate the audio beacons NAVIGUEO+ HIFI which can locate points of interest such as the entrances of a public building or a subway station.

Available on both Android and iOS, an update is coming! 

Be My Eyes

An app with which users can ask the help of sighted users in order to match their clothes or to know the expiry date of a product. Thanks to an audio-video connexion, users can easily get in touch. 

Available on both Android and iOS

Aira

Aira works in the same way as Be My Eyes since it connects nonsighted people with sighted ones to help them in various tasks such as finding the gate of an airport.

What sets this app apart is that the sighted users, called agents, are specifically trained to assist blind or visually impaired users referred to as Explorers. 

Although the app can be downloaded for free, users are charged according to the different plans and services Aira provides. Depending on the formula they choose and their needs, the cost can thus be high.

Available on both Android and iOS

Seeing AI

A multipurpose app that permits to read and describe all types of documents placed under the smartphone camera such as banknotes or product barcodes.

Seeing AI even recognizes images, colors and faces and thus gives details on people’s emotions. 

Available on iOS

Lookout

Lookout is the equivalent app of Seeing AI on Android. The user just has to activate their smartphone camera so that Lookout can identify banknotes, objects… Thanks to its Quick Read Mode, the app skims through a text which is ideal when sorting the mail for example.

An app that simplifies the everyday tasks and saves time to its users!

Available on Android

 

We can see that blind or visually impaired people have within their reach numerous apps that improve their autonomy especially concerning their mobility.

If you want to know more about other profiles of people with disabilities and the apps they use in their everyday lives, you can read our articles:

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

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

 

media

The app Evelity is the first indoor wayfinding solution for people with a visual impairment to navigate in complex venues such as museums or universities! It works like a GPS.

writer

Carole Martinez

Content Manager junior

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

follow us!

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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.

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.

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Carole Martinez

Digital Content Manager Junior

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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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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!

media

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.

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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.

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. 

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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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...

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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.