A woman is getting down a subway station in New York City

7 Good Reasons to Install Audio Beacons at Your Public Transport Network

Have you heard of audio beacons? It’s probably one of the most effective solutions to help blind and visually impaired people find their way in a complex venue.

In a public transport system, audio beacons act as landmarks. Installed at different points of information, they enable the visually impaired to get down at a subway platform with more autonomy.

How do audio beacons work? What are their benefits? 

Let’s have a look at 7 ways this audio signage solution can help your riders and employees alike.

1. Audio beacons are an efficient audio signage solution

Hearing is the most used sense by people with vision disabilities. This means that in the U.S., around 12 million people with partial or complete vision loss rely on their hearing to find their way or apprehend their environment. 

And that’s where audio beacons step in. They emit information through a loudspeaker. Audio beacons are an efficient audio signage solution that enables blind and visually impaired people to:

Locate the entrance of a subway station.

Locate the elevator to get down the station.

Locate any points of interest (ticket counter, restrooms, baggage lockers, shops…).

Reach the platform: audio beacons can tell users the line directions so that they can easily know what platform they need to use.

2. No noise pollution for users

Although audio beacons provide a high-quality sound to cover ambient noise, they know how to be discreet. 

These audio beacons work with on demand activation. This means they only state their message when a visually impaired user activates them.

No risk for other users to be bothered by constant noise.

3. Audio beacons are easy to use for blind and visually impaired people

Now you must wonder how people with visual impairments activate audio beacons. 

With 2 devices: a remote control and a free smartphone app. This means the remote activation of audio beacons is entirely in their hands.

They have these devices at all times when they use public transportation.

For you as a public transit network, this entails that you don’t have to provide the activation devices. You only need to set up audio beacons at the points of interest of your network.

And of course, you need to make sure the system works well to guide blind and visually impaired people.

4. Audio beacons are easy to set up

You can upload up to 5 personalized messages. Audio beacons can give temporary or permanent information like an elevator failure, a delayed train or the direction of a trainline and timetables.

It all depends on what blind and visually impaired people need to know for their trip to be comfortable. Keep in mind they need to have the same information as sighted people.

Plus, you can easily set up the volume of the messages. At night time, depending on how busy a station is, you can lower the volume for the comfort of all users.

5. An inexpensive audio signage solution

Audio beacons are less expensive than guide paths. And also a better fit for the architecture of the network. They’re more discreet but as efficient as another signage system.

Plus, audio beacons don’t need any maintenance. They’re robust and designed to equip complex environments like public transport networks.

6. More autonomy for people with vision disabilities thanks to audio beacons

With audio beacons, they can easily navigate your network by themselves, find the right bus, get on and off a subway train… 

This means your employees are just here to give them information if they need it. You don’t need to hire extra employees to guide blind and visually impaired people.

They get around with complete autonomy thanks to the audio beacons you set up. It’s a win-win solution.

7. A system praised by the blind and visually impaired and public transit authorities in France

More than 300 stations of the railway company SNCF (National society of French railroads) are equipped with audio beacons. 

At the RATP (Autonomous Parisian Transportation Administration) in charge of public transport in Paris, it’s more than 2000 audio beacons deployed in 302 subway stations and 65 train stations. 

Why do audio beacons represent such a success in French public transport? 

Probably because of a study by the Institute of Vision made in France. According to it, 80% of the blind and visually impaired people find that audio beacons are the most useful device for them.

The study also showed how efficient audio beacons are: 100% of users managed to locate the entrance of a building equipped with an audio beacon. Without this audio beacon, only 20% of users were able to find the entrance. 

To sum up, audio beacons enable people with visual impairments to:

Get around with autonomy in a complex environment,

Use public transport,

Access practical information,

Find their bearings with safety.

Is your public transit network the next one to implement audio beacons?

Want to know more about improving the mobility of people with disabilities on public transport? Check out these articles:

Paratransit Services for People with Disabilities: Yes You Can Reduce Their Costs

How Innovation Promises to Revolutionize Accessibility in the New York City Subway

How Can Multimodal Transit Centers Be Accessible for People with Disabilities?

Published on February 17th, 2023


An audio beacon at Okeenea's entrance

Audio beacons can give temporary or permanent information like an elevator failure, a delayed train or the direction of a trainline and timetables. (…) Keep in mind the visually impaired need to have the same information as sighted people.


Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager & Copywriter

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