Brisbane: A City for Everyone

Brisbane: A City for Everyone

Brisbane: a City for Everyone

 

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

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

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

 

Proven solutions to favor accessibility of blind pedestrians in Brisbane

 

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

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

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

Adrian Schrinner, Lord Mayor of Brisbane since 2019

 

Brisbane Access and Inclusion Plan 2012-2017 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

How to make Brisbane world accessibility leader?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

See you in ten years!

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

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Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

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

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on the accessibility market.

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

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

How to Maintain Pedestrian Accessibility When Carrying out Street Works?

How to Maintain Pedestrian Accessibility When Carrying out Street Works?

How to Maintain Pedestrian Accessibility When Carrying out Street Works?

 

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

Among the most affected pedestrians, the disabled.

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

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

 

Why value street works’ accessibility?

Who is concerned?

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

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

 

What are the difficulties encountered?

 

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

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

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

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

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

⊗ Not knowing if someone nearby could help;

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

 

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

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

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

⊗ Passages or maneuvers are too narrow for wheelchairs.

Deaf people may have difficulty in:

⊗ Hearing any warning signals;

⊗ Communicating with the workers;

⊗ Maintaining good visibility on the traffic;

⊗ Concentrating because of the background noise.

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

⊗ Lack of landmarks in case of modified itineraries;

⊗ Difficulty locating oneself on maps detailing the construction site;

⊗ Stress management related to the presence of street works;

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

 

Street works’ good practices

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

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

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

 

Protecting pedestrians with a barrier system

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

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

While working at a site, site managers must: 

⊗ Check that signs and barriers are still in place;

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

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

Ensure the continuity of pedestrian paths

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

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

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

 

What accessibility solution for visually impaired people?

 

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

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

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

 

Open data: a universal accessibility solution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

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

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powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

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

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

8 Clichés About Blind People

8 Clichés About Blind People

8 Clichés About Blind People

 

Maybe it’s because sight is the sense most used by humans or maybe it is because of our deep-rooted fear of the dark, but blindness provokes both dread and curiosity. There are many preconceived ideas about blind people. Here are some that we will now debunk.

1. Blind people have a sixth sense

False. Blind people have one fewer sense, not an extra one.

The word blind simply means unable to see. Over the course of history, blind people have sometimes elicited irrational fears and inordinate admiration at other times, and almost always some form of fascination. Why is a sixth sense often attributed to them? If they sometimes give the impression that they have perceived some preternatural sign, it is only because being deprived of the primary sense used by humans obliges them to use their other senses to a far greater extent than those with sight generally do.

2. Blind people hear better

False. Blind people hear neither better nor worse than the rest of the population.

However, hearing is the principal sense they use to compensate for their lack of sight. With the same auditory acuity, a blind person can capture more sound information than a sighted person. It is first of all a matter of attention to the soundscape and its interpretation. So, you should not be surprised if a blind person hears something that you completely missed. Quite simply, your concentration was on something else, probably what was in front of your eyes.

3. All blind people can read braille

Again false. Only about 10% of blind people can read braille. Far from all of them!

In the majority of cases, blindness occurs after the age of learning to read. This disability affects a large majority of people over 60. So, it is rare that such people would have access to learning braille. Furthermore, the sense of touch can be altered through manual work, an illness or medical treatment. Even when learned early on, braille requires regular practice or it can be lost. It’s not easy to find access to documents in braille on a daily basis.
For the blind people who have mastered it, braille is, nevertheless, a key tool for social and professional inclusion.

4. Braille is a type of foreign language—very difficult to learn

False. Braille is just an alphabet, a code for transcribing letters.

It is a touch-based writing system, where each character comprises a combination of embossed dots. Its 64 different dot combinations are enough to transcribe all letters of the alphabet, including accented letters, figures and punctuation. While mastering braille requires a honed sense of touch, it is, on the other hand, very easy to decode a braille text by sight using an alphabet and some basic rules.

5. Blind people have no concept of colors

It all depends on the age the person became blind.

Obviously, those who have never seen colors will have difficulty imagining them. But the majority of blind people were not always blind. They maintain their visual reference throughout their lives. In any case, even people who were born blind are able understanding the codes connected to colors: red or green light, blue sky or water, green leaves turning red in the fall… There is no need to see to understand the underlying meaning of colors.

6. Blind people don’t dream

False. They do, like everyone else!

Dreams are made up of impressions captured during the day. Sight is the dominant sense among humans, so dreams are mostly composed of a stream of images. For those who have never seen, they do not dream in images. For people who were born blind, their dreams contain impressions originating from other senses: hearing, touch, smell and even taste. For those who could see earlier in life, their dreams can also retain clear images as before or images altered due to the degeneration of their sight.

7. Blind people cannot use a computer

False. Of course they can. Fortunately, there are many adaptations to computers allowing blind people to use a computer.

Screen readers are software programs that read aloud all that appears on a computer screen through a voice synthesis: entered text, web pages, menus, dialog boxes, etc. These programs include keyboard shortcuts allowing the blind user to move from one element to another as a sighted person can do visually. They can also be connected to a braille display, a sort of tablet that creates embossed dots representing the different letters during reading.
These tools, however, are expensive and require intensive training to be able to use effectively. Their effectiveness also relies heavily on how much the software developers and webmasters incorporated digital accessibility into their design.

8.      Blind people cannot use a smartphone

False. This may be more surprising than the fact that they can use a computer.

With their completely smooth screen and near absence of buttons, it is not readily obvious that blind people would be able to use smartphones. But smartphone manufacturers have considered this issue in depth and today offer apps like VoiceOver for iOS and TalkBack for Android. These apps vocalize all actions made on the screen and allow interaction through adapted gestures.

If you like this article, you will love this one as well: 7 Clichés about Psychiatric Disability

Have you any other questions but were afraid to ask? Don’t be shy! Who knows, your question might find a place in a later issue of this webzine.

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For disabled people, disruptions to their means of transportation can cause plenty of stress and added difficulties. That’s why such situations need to be anticipated, more so than for other travelers.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

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

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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 Do the Blind Safely Cross the Road?

How Do the Blind Safely Cross the Road?

How Do the Blind Safely Cross the Road?

 

Find a crosswalk, wait for the right moment, get to the opposite sidewalk by walking straight across. It is quite common for the average pedestrian. But for a person who has lost their sight, every step is complicated. This is especially true in today’s urban environments where more and more types of transportation methods coexist. Blind and visually impaired people can do nothing but trust their other working senses such as hearing and touch. Yet, they still need to rely on some clear indicators. This is where adherence to road and public space accessibility regulations makes sense.

Visual and Tactile Clues for Locating a Crosswalk

For people with impaired eyesight who can still make out differences in brightness, the white lines marking crosswalks are an essential aspect. They are also an excellent marker for guide-dogs, which are given the order “find the lines.” It is thus a reliable clue that must be used as much as possible.
Blind people who use a cane to get around, on the other hand, have further difficulties. They first find the general location of crosswalks based on the noise of traffic. Then, they search for tactile paving on the ground. The paving should have an obvious contrast in feeling from the rest of the sidewalk. Its visual contrast is also an aid for the visually impaired because its color generally lasts longer than the paint on the rest of the pavement.

Listening for the Right Moment and Staying the Course

Knowing the moment when the street is free to cross safely is perhaps one of the most distressing tasks for a person who is blind or visually impaired. Hearing is the main sense relied on at this stage.
However, keeping an ear out is not enough! Knowing how to analyze the traffic flow is a necessary skill. How many lanes are there to cross? What vehicles are using the street (cars, bikes, tram, etc.)? Are there traffic lights? Who has right of way? Street crossing skills are acquired through courses on Orientation and Mobility (O&M) for the blind. An O&M specialist is a professional who teaches those with poor eyesight how to orient themselves and walk in safety. It is also through these courses that a blind or visually impaired person knows how to maintain their direction during the crossing.

Limits to the Aids

The white stripes of crosswalks, the tactile paving, Orientation and Mobility training… none of that ever crossed your mind, did it? You are probably saying to yourself that it is great that all that exists, and you would be right! Unfortunately, it is not enough and many factors compromise these aids.

  1. Crosswalks disappear due to time and the constant traffic. They are not always repainted to maintain the visual contrast. Furthermore, many pedestrian crossings are not marked out by white or yellow strips but by more subtle elements such as studs or cobblestones.
  2. Tactile strips are not always placed in a way that serves as an effective point of reference. They are easy to notice when the sidewalk dips so that the change in gradient acts as an indicator. However, urban improvements placing the sidewalk at the same level as the road has become more common in an effort to help the movement of people with reduced mobility. This causes a loss of reference points for visually impaired people and makes it more difficult to find tactile paving. We should not forget either that under dead leaves or snow, the embossed paving can no longer be felt.
  3. The number of vehicles using the street complicates the analysis of traffic by ear. In addition to the number, another complication is the almost silent nature of some vehicles such as bikes or electric cars that share the road with other extremely noisy vehicles like machinery and street cleaners. Furthermore, the absence of different levels or tactile points of references between different streets makes their identification impossible.
  4. Finally, those with impaired vision who have had access to Orientation and Mobility training are very much a minority. O&M specialists are rare and not easily found outside large cities. Meanwhile, the quick changes to the urban environment require continuous refresher courses, which is far from possible today.

 

Are your pedestrian crossings safe for blind people to cross? This article will answer all your questions!

 

Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS): a Vital Solution

Considering all this information, the use of a sound system on pedestrian signals or on other types of street furniture is essential nowadays. Of course, blind and visually impaired pedestrians need some training on the use of acoustic traffic signals. But such traffic signals solve a large number of difficulties, which is the reason why they have been mandated by accessibility regulations in many countries.

  1. Acoustic traffic signals make it easier to find a crosswalk. When they can be activated from a distance by a remote or smartphone, such signals allow visually impaired people to easily locate a pedestrian crossing. They just need to follow the source of the sound.
  2. These types of signals also indicate the best time to start crossing. Even though listening to the traffic remains indispensable in order to avoid accidents with a vehicle running a red light, lights with audio signals greatly facilitate decision-making. The beeps, tweets, bells or voice messages from the lights clearly indicate the moment to cross.
    The customized message with the street name allows a person with impaired vision to distinguish the street they want to cross perpendicular to.
  3. Acoustic signals allow a person to maintain a straight trajectory during the entire crossing.
    Again, thanks to the sound, visually impaired people can orient themselves more easily during the crossing by listening to the sound emanating from the other side. Accordingly, it is essential that acoustic traffic signals are properly installed, as close as possible to the center of the crosswalk.
    Even when pedestrian signals have been removed, for example, to improve traffic flow, it is possible to install audio beacons on buildings or integrate them into street furniture so that essential audible indications can still be provided to the visually impaired.

It should now be clear that crossing the road is an enormous challenge for the blind and visually impaired and not only because they have to deal with cars. Finding the edge of the street and crosswalks and staying on course during the crossing are all just as important tasks. All these issues must be taken into account when developing an accessible roadway.

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The use of a sound system on pedestrian signals or on other types of street furniture is essential nowadays.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

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

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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.

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

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

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

 

How can you dial a telephone number on a completely smooth screen you cannot see? How can you type a message without embossed keys? At first glance, the smartphone should be synonymous with inaccessibility for blind people. And yet, it has become an indispensable companion for many of them: a trove of functions that pushes the boundaries of their independence.

How Can a Person with Vision Loss Use a Smartphone?

With the 2009 launch of its iPhone 3GS, Apple incorporated a screen reader called VoiceOver into its famous smartphone. Google quickly followed suit by adding TalkBack to Android.


To compensate for the lack of buttons, the principle is to touch or swipe the screen with a finger to hear aloud the item displayed on screen. Next, a specific gesture produces interactions with that item. The gestures are specific to each operating system (iOS or Android).


For people whose eyesight still allows them to read the screen, zoom options along with visual contrast and color settings improve their reading comfort.


As for entering text, the manufacturers have thought of everything. Options like virtual talking keyboard, dictation and connection to a regular or braille keyboard via Bluetooth are all available. The iPhone screen even converts into an actual braille keyboard for unrivaled quick typing.


And finally, those with visual impairment are often very fond of voice assistants like Siri and Google Assistant which allow them to avoid many complicated hand movements.

Which Smartphones Are Most Used by Blind People?

According to the results of the Screen Reader User Survey #7, 88% of people with impaired vision questioned use a screen reader on their cellphone. Of those, 69% use VoiceOver and 29.5% TalkBack. Apple’s success can be explained by both VoiceOver’s effectiveness and the number of apps developed on its platform that are made specifically for visually impaired people.

What Have Smartphones Changed in the Life of Blind and Visually Impaired People?

Quite simply, the vast majority of everyday actions that needed the help of a third person a few years ago can now be done on the phone.


There is one qualification, however. Mastering a smartphone when you cannot see anything or next to nothing is no simple task. It takes time, patience and dexterity. This is why the visually impaired, especially older people, do not all have access to this technological wonder. Yet, for the adept, the list of possibilities is long. They can obviously make phone calls or send messages (SMS or email), as well as manage their schedule and bank accounts, shop, read emails thanks to character recognition, book transportation or tickets to a show, talk on social media, read e-books, listen to music or podcasts, watch videos, play audio descriptions to TV shows or movies, read subtitles of a foreign film, use maps and calculate a journey on foot or by public transport, set off audio beacons, and even get help via a video call.

A Focus on Some Popular Apps for Visually Impaired People

The ability to travel is without doubt a principal issue for people who have lost their sight. Although GPS is still not precise enough to allow a person to find the entrance to a store, a bus stop or subway station without seeing, it is extremely useful to know where they are and in which direction they are going. Thus, people with visual impairments gladly use GPS apps for the general public like Maps or Google Maps. In addition to real-time directions, these apps offer the ability to prepare for a journey by going over the different stages from the comfort of their living room. Thinking ahead about a journey to an unfamiliar place is a very important step, especially since noise and the sense of vulnerability felt by some people with a visual impairment put them off from using their smartphone outside. Other transport apps, like Moovit and Transit, are also greatly welcomed. Thanks to GPS tracking, these apps can also alert a person that they are nearing their stop on a bus, train or tram—an invaluable option when announcements are not in service.


Other applications using GPS tracking have been developed specifically for the blind and visually impaired. BlindSquare, despite being expensive, is without doubt the most popular of them. However, it suffers from competition from Microsoft’s free application Soundscape. These apps describe surroundings and give alerts to intersections and nearby points of interest. They can also be used while the phone is in their pocket, which is a huge benefit.

Digital Accessibility is a topic for you? Check this article!


Another mention should go to Ariadne GPS, which allows real-time position tracking and browsing of a virtual map through the aid of VoiceOver’s speech synthesis. It is very useful for tracking a bus or taxi trip as well as for exploring a new neighborhood.
In the area of audio signs, MyMoveo triggers the latest generation of Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) aBeacon and audio beacons NAVIGUEO+HIFI manufactured by the French company Okeenea. The desired message can then be chosen along with its language and volume.

Another revolution in the lives of those with a visual impairment comes from apps based on a support network that can be used at any time. Be My Eyes for example, as its name indicates, invites those with eyesight to lend their eyes for a moment to those who need them. Users get in contact through a video call. Choosing a shirt, finding out the use-by date of a yogurt or locating something that fell on the ground is then possible without having to wait for a friend or family member to pass by. For travel, Be My Eyes can also be used for finding a building’s entrance or a name on an intercom or letterbox.


Smartphones also have some multi-purpose apps for blind people. These include Microsoft’s Seeing AI and Google’s Lookout. These allow any printed document to be read by placing the phone’s camera over the document. But they can also detect light, recognize banknotes, colors and even images and faces.

Finally, to navigate indoor environments where satellite signals cannot be received, there is now the Evelity app. Already used in some places, it’s currently being installed in the Marseilles metro network in France where it will soon be available. It allows to go from point A to point B inside a station, but also between several stations. For example: a blind person can locate the metro platform from the entrance of a station and walk to the exit of the arrival station following the app’s voice instructions. Evelity works for everyone but adapts to the user’s disabilities to offer the best route.

The possibilities offered by smartphones today open up extraordinary opportunities for the inclusion of people living with a visual impairment. All that remains is for everyone to have access to these resources! You can help by passing this article on to everyone you know.

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

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A revolution in the lives of those with a visual impairment comes from apps based on a support network that can be used at any time.

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Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

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

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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.

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Disabled People in the World in 2021: Facts and Figures

Disabled People in the World in 2021: Facts and Figures

Disabled People in the World in 2021: Facts and Figures

 

There are currently more than 1 billion disabled people in the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) a disabled person is anyone who has “a problem in body function or structure, an activity limitation, has a difficulty in executing a task or action; with a participation restriction”.

What are the different types of disabilities? How many people are affected? Which populations are most at risk? What impact has COVID-19 had on people with disabilities? Let’s take stock of the facts and figures around the world. 

How many people have disabilities in the world?

You may not see disabled people in your everyday life, and yet the WHO has identified over 1 billion disabled people, 20% of whom live with great functional difficulties in their day-to-day lives. 

A few outstanding figures of disability around the world (according to the WHO’s 2011 report):

⊗ 253 million people are affected by some form of blindness and visual impairment. This represents 3.2% of the world’s population. That’s twice Mexico’s population*!

⊗ 466 million people have a disabling deafness and hearing loss. This represents 6% of the world’s population, that is to say all of the inhabitants of the European Union!

⊗ About 200 million people have an intellectual disability (IQ below 75). This represents 2.6% of the world’s population. It covers the number of inhabitants in Brazil!

⊗ 75 million people need a wheelchair on a daily basis. This represents 1% of the world’s population. That’s twice Canada’s population!

These figures may remain an evolutionary average, but one thing is certain: the number of people affected by any form of disability represents a significant part of the world population, from children to adults alike. It is also important to underline the fact that some people may have multiple disabilities. This explains why the total number of people with disabilities in the world isn’t equal to the sum of people with disabilities per disability type. Indeed, the same person can be both deaf and blind.

What does an impairment mean exactly?

Visual impairment: this concerns far-sightedness and near-sightedness so there are two types of visual impairment to distinguish between.

Hearing impairment: you can be affected by hearing loss as soon as you lose 20 decibels. It may affect one or both of your ears. Depending on their hearing loss, hearing impaired people can have hearing aids, cochlear implants, subtitles. When we refer to deaf people, this means they can’t hear anymore or barely.

Intellectual disability: the WHO defines it as “a significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information and to learn and apply new skills (impaired intelligence)”.

Physical disability: this includes people with a physical impairment or reduced mobility. Thus, their mobility capacity may be limited in their upper and/or lower body. 

Explanation of global disability figures

More and more people are affected by disability every year. It is often the most vulnerable people who are most at risk. The WHO says that “the number of people with disabilities is increasing because of the aging of the population and the increase of chronic diseases”.

Key facts:

⊗ In 2017, people over 60 years old represented 962 million people, which was twice as many as in 1980;

⊗ 1 in 2 disabled person cannot afford treatment;

⊗ People with disabilities have a more fragile general health;

⊗ Disability increases dependency and limits participation in society;

⊗ The poverty rate is higher for people with disabilities.

These gaps are due to barriers to accessing health, education, transportation, information and work services – which many of us are taking for granted. 

A definition of invisible disability 

The concept of invisible disability takes its name from the forms of disability that are not apparent but that impact the quality of life. Among these are schizophrenia or deafness for example.

Far from clichés representing a disabled person in a wheelchair on the usual signage all over the world, the field of disability includes a vast range of disorders that are sensory, cognitive, psychological or chronic.

In the United States, about 10% of Americans have a medical condition which could be considered an invisible disability.

People with disabilities and COVID-19

2020 was truly an exhausting year due to COVID-19’s propagation all over the world. We still struggle today to get rid of it even if the incoming of several vaccines represents a beacon of hope for us all.

We aren’t all equals dealing with disease and COVID-19 doesn’t make an exception! But it’s even more striking for people with disabilities who have had to deal with challenging issues due to their disabilities! Let’s see what consequences coronavirus has had on them.

Being visually impaired and being used to dealing with your environment through touch, what can you do when the world shifts and that you cannot touch anything anymore? Blind or visually impaired people suddenly lost all of their bearings. Plus they couldn’t always rely on the help of others. A lot of people were paranoid and scared for fear they might get infected by the virus if they guided a blind person offering their arm.

For deaf or hearing impaired people, communication with others could already be challenging before dealing with everybody wearing masks. Then they couldn’t lip read or decipher people’s emotions anymore. In order to leave no one behind, some people stepped up and created an inclusive mask to help hearing impaired people communicate and understand others. An inclusive world needs to include all categories of people. The inclusive mask is a perfect example of what an inclusive society should look like despite the fact that it’s not widely used yet. 

We all had to adapt after losing our bearings but it was more difficult for some than for others. Some people with an intellectual disability struggled to understand why the world suddenly stopped and everything turned upside down. For them, sticking to a routine was extremely important, something COVID-19 played havoc with, causing a severe amount of stress. 

A lot of public places implemented a specific system to let people in and out in order to avoid any contamination risk. For people with a physical disability, this could mean having to use a longer path or having to deal with narrower halls for wheelchair users. These situations can be both tiring and frustrating.

Generally speaking, a lot of people living in retirement homes or specialized medical centers were suddenly cut off from the outside world and their loved ones… Same as everybody, it had an impact, more or less important, on individuals’ mental well-being whether they have disabilities or not. Plus, the contamination risk remained present through the nursing staff. A continual and heavy stress for the families.

COVID-19 has increased inequalities in society regarding health. The United States and the European Union chose to first prioritize vaccination for the elderly, healthcare workers and people with serious health conditions. Just like a pack of wolves places its most fragile members ahead and its strongest behind to make sure that everybody gets through together. That’s the definition of solidarity! 

In conclusion

As we can see, disability comes in many different forms and is progressing all over the world. While some disabilities are temporary, others, on the other hand, affect the everyday actions of people in the long term.

Getting to know more about disabled people means getting to know more about 1 billion world citizens who are longing for one thing: a more accessible world!

 

*For our demonstration, we took the liberty to give approximate numbers concerning the population of the mentioned countries.

Here are the correct numbers of inhabitants in 2021 for each of them:

⊗ Mexico: 130 262 000 inhabitants

⊗ European Union: around 450 million inhabitants

⊗ Brazil: 213 993 000 inhabitants

⊗ Canada: 38 068 000 inhabitants

Updated on May 28th 2021

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO) a disabled person is anyone who has “a problem in body function or structure, an activity limitation, has a difficulty in executing a task or action; with a participation restriction”.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

follow us!

more articles

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

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

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

Sign up now for our newsletter.

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

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

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

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