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.

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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

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Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

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

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.

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...

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

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

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

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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.

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 statistics 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 statistics 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 statistics

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:

⊗ 80% of disabilities are actually acquired between the ages of 18 and 64, that is to say the workforce age (according to the Disabled Living Foundation);

⊗ 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. 

If we focus on children with disabilities and their access to education, the observation is quite dreadful: according to the UNICEF, around 240 million children in the world have disabilities, that is to say one child out of ten. They are 49% more likely to have never attended school compared with children without disabilities.

Depending on their disabilities, their situations and the country they live in, they are more or less included in society. Inclusion that we now set up will have a positive impact in their adult lives.

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.

Learn more on this subject with our article:

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

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 November 26th 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

share our article!

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...

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

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

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

Sign up now for our newsletter.

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

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

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

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