Assistive Technology for People with Disabilities: Is Human Assistance Really Obsolete for Their Mobility?

Assistive Technology for People with Disabilities: Is Human Assistance Really Obsolete for Their Mobility?

A blind woman uses Evelity, an assistive technology device, to find her bearings

Assistive Technology for People with Disabilities: Is Human Assistance Really Obsolete for Their Mobility?

 

Assistive technology for people with disabilities aims at removing accessibility barriers. This represents a central element regarding their mobility. In this article, we’ll focus only on assistive technologies that make their getting around easier. But they can be found in other aspects of their life. 

When getting around or finding their bearings, assistive technology can often replace human assistance. Airports or train stations provide human assistance that users with disabilities can book to make sure their trip goes smoothly. However, there can be limits to what this service actually does. That’s where assistive technology takes place: it can offset what human assistance may lack.

What can assistive technology actually do to help people with disabilities get around with autonomy? Can navigation assistance entirely replace human assistance? Let’s figure this out!

What is assistive technology for people with disabilities and what can it do for their mobility?

Assistive technology, also called AT, refers to assistive, adaptive and rehabilitative devices designed for people with disabilities and the elderly. These groups of people encounter difficulties in activities of daily living. They may need assistance to bathe, dress, eat or get around. 

Thanks to assistive technology, they regain more autonomy and independence. For people with learning disabilities, they can use educational softwares that help them read, learn and remain organized. They consist of text readers, notetakers and organization tools.

What interests us here is assistive technology for people with disabilities and their mobility. By mobility, we mean getting around in the city, a venue or a public transportation with the most spontaneity and autonomy possible. Something they wouldn’t be able to do without assistive technology. 

Because after all, assistive technology enables people with disabilities to regain more control on their everyday life. Wheelchairs can be seen as assistive technology. Users with motor disabilities need a wheelchair to go to work or buy their groceries. We can find manual or electric wheelchairs but they’re evolving to meet the needs of their users. Some are designed to climb stairs for example. 

Depending on people’s disabilities, mobility can be more or less challenging. A blind person will encounter more difficulties where a deaf person won’t be as obstructed. How can a visually impaired person locate the exact entrance of a venue? When there’s no audio beacon and no tactile guide path, they need to be accompanied by someone or to ask a passerby for some help. A hearing impaired person will meet less difficulty as they’ll rely on pictograms or signs to reach the entrance. 

What remains important is guaranteeing a seamless mobility chain. A key notion for all types of users but that’s even more important for those with disabilities. Implementing a seamless mobility chain means that all links are connected to each other to provide accessibility all along the way.

For a blind person going to work, this means the public transit they use and its potential connection need to be accessible, from A to point C. In this case, wayfinding and navigation systems such as apps are more efficient than human assistance. They can get to their destination with more autonomy.

What types of navigation apps are part of assistive technology for people with disabilities?

84% of people with disabilities use a smartphone. That’s why assistive technology is promising to enhance accessibility and inclusion. More and more apps are created to help people with disabilities get around with more spontaneity and more independence.

Let’s take a look at navigation systems specially conceived to improve their mobility:

NaviLens: a Spanish company that uses QR codes to guide blind and visually impaired people. They just need to follow tactile guide paths and scan the QR codes with their smartphone camera for navigation instructions. For now, Barcelona’s public transit and the Murcia tram are equipped with NaviLens as well as the archaeological museum of Murcia.

NavChair: another Spanish company but for wheelchair users this time. This navigation and autopilot system enables them to avoid obstacles along their route. They can get a step-free route to make sure their needs are met.

Evelity: an indoor navigation app conceived by accessibility French company Okeenea. The app focuses on all types of disabilities. It adapts to the user’s profile. This means that wheelchair users have access to obstacle-free routes and that blind and visually impaired users have step by step instructions thanks to a screen reader. The Marseilles metro in France is equipped with Evelity and the solution is currently being tested at the JaySt-MetroTech station in New York City

Assistive technology for the mobility of people with disabilities enters into phygital experiences. Phygital is a bridge connecting the physical world with the digital one to provide users with a unique and interactive experience.

What Is a Phygital Experience and How Can It Improve the Accessibility of Your Venue?

Assistive technology follows the same guidelines as phygital: technology by itself isn’t the solution to enhance accessibility. It needs:

Physical accessibility: technology is pointless without accessible equipment within accessible venues. A wheelchair user won’t be able to use their navigation app in a venue that doesn’t have access ramps or elevators. What’s the point of using an innovative navigation app if they can’t get inside the venue?  

Users with disabilities: technology is a means to an end. The goal of assistive technology is to enhance the mobility of people with disabilities. It serves them. We need to keep in mind that the ultimate goal of assistive technology is to make their lives easier to get around. It’s not developing new technologies for the sake of it. People with disabilities need to be at the heart of assistive technology.

The combination of both elements is how assistive technology for people with disabilities gains full meaning. 

In what venues can assistive technology for people with disabilities improve their mobility? 

Now that you know that assistive technology for people with disabilities can be a true asset for their mobility, you need to ask yourself where this can be implemented. Where is it more necessary? In what places are people with disabilities struggling the most to get around? 

Basically, this defines complex venues. What’s a complex venue exactly?

It’s a very huge and busy venue with constant comings and goings. In a way, it can be compared to a maze. Complex venues may be more or less challenging for people with disabilities. 

What are their difficulties when navigating inside complex venues?

Accessing information,

Accessing services,

Locating the appropriate entry and exit,

Finding their bearings to go from one point to another,

Dealing with connections in a complex public transport system…

Complex venues are stressful for people with disabilities. Once again, in such places, maintaining a seamless mobility chain is essential. That’s what enables accessibility barriers to be removed.

Complex venues can take many forms:

Public transport like subways,

Multimodal transit centers,

Airports,

Museums,

Shopping malls,

Stadiums,

Business towers,

Colleges and universities,

Hospitals…

People with disabilities may need to use public transit everyday to go to work, to accompany their kids to school… But whether they’re familiar or not with the transit system, assistive technology like navigation apps can be useful for them. 

They benefit from assistive technology to get around in complex environments but also to:

Feel less stressed, 

Gain more time as they’ll find their way around more easily,

Remain autonomous and independent, 

Not to rely on human assistance to reach their destination,

Be in control of their mobility,

Have more spontaneity when they’re getting around,

Not to have to plan every little step they need to make,

Feel like any other person who’s going from one point to another,

Not to be discriminated against,

Not to be perceived as a minority who bothers others,

Be fully included in our society as they should always have been.

In other words, for people with disabilities, assistive technology may be synonymous with freedom. And who doesn’t like to be able to go wherever and whenever they want to? 

Navigation apps like Evelity truly improves the mobility of people with disabilities. The metro of Lille in France has also tested the app. Blind and visually impaired users were impressed with the autonomy that such assistive device enabled them to gain. 

“I felt like I wasn’t alone anymore. We find freedom because we are helped but virtually”, told Annie who is visually impaired. 

Soufiane, a blind man, stated: “I am very interested and I think that we should go beyond the metro.”

From what we gather here, an assistive device for people with disabilities means freedom of movement, the ability to get around by themselves. 

Check out all user testimonies who were guided with Evelity in the Lille metro

Such navigation apps belong in all venues where people with disabilities have difficulties to navigate. Plus in the case of Evelity, it can even become more than just a navigation app.

The Maison Victor Hugo museum in Paris, France chose Evelity to not only guide their visitors with disabilities but to provide content about the depicted works of art and Victor Hugo’s life, a famous French author. The app enables culture to be more accessible. Visitors with disabilities don’t need a tour guide to enjoy the museum. 

What about human assistance?

As you can imagine, all the mentioned complex venues usually provide human assistance with customer service agents at public transits or shopping malls, tour guides at museums or special assistance staff at airports. 

Is this type of service truly helpful for people with disabilities? Wouldn’t a navigation app be more efficient and reliable? If you manage a public transport network or a shopping mall, you need to ask yourself these questions.

What are the benefits of human assistance regarding the mobility of people with disabilities?

Who better than a human to guide another human? There’s empathy, a sense of commitment and dedication to be helpful towards vulnerable people. 

Many venues rely on such services to make sure their customers or users with disabilities are satisfied. After all, if they’re satisfied, they’re more likely to come back and spread the word as well on the quality of service they’ve received.

What are the drawbacks of special assistance services?

On paper, human assistance to guide people with disabilities sounds great but in reality, it may not suit and there are many inconveniences:

The cost of having employees dedicated to one service can be quite high for venues. Their staff could be deployed towards other services and purposes. Plus, a lot of venues outsource which can be costly as well.

The staff may not have enough training to truly meet the needs of people with disabilities. 

If that’s the case, this could be damaging for the venue’s reputation as unsatisfied customers could write bad reviews online.

There’s a lack of spontaneity for people with disabilities who need to book human assistance very early on when planning a trip. 

For a connection, they can’t just make the beginning of the trip by themselves and the rest with the help of staff members. It’s either human assistance all along the way or none at all. This restrains in a way their freedom of movement. 

Are assistive technology for people with disabilities and human assistance truly opposed? 

This could be the 1 million dollar question at this point. What matters here is meeting the needs of people with disabilities without it to be too costly or complicated to manage for venues.

So far, we’ve seen that for their mobility, people with disabilities favor autonomy and independence. But it depends on their capabilities so every person with disabilities is different. In some cases, they may prefer to apprehend a venue by themselves or in others, they may require assistance. 

This means that they need to have the choice: use assistive technology like navigation apps or request the help of a staff member to reach their destination.

Having both options available could make a difference in the way they want to control their mobility. We all like having options and not feel restrained or limited. For people with disabilities who may experience it in several aspects of their everyday lives, having the choice to use technology or to interact with an employee matters. They decide what they need and what’s best for them.

Of course, you need to apply this to your venue and to your users with disabilities: are they more comfortable using technology? Do they prefer asking for help? Is your venue a better fit for assistive devices? Are your human assistance services efficient enough?

You can directly ask what your users with disabilities think about this. They’ll be glad to be involved and think highly of your venue and services. Be aware that assistive technology for people with disabilities keeps evolving to better meet their needs so stay informed on these innovative navigation apps. 

Want to know more about assistive technology for people with disabilities and human assistance? Check out this article: 

Mobility Apps for Blind People or How Technology Can Replace Special Assistance at the Airport?

Published on July 15th, 2022

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A person is using Evelity on the subway. They're on an escalator.

84% of people with disabilities use a smartphone. That’s why assistive technology is promising to enhance accessibility and inclusion. More and more apps are created to help people with disabilities get around with more spontaneity and more independence.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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The Ultimate Guide to Accessible Pedestrian Signals

The Ultimate Guide to Accessible Pedestrian Signals

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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.

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.

What Is a Phygital Experience and How Can It Improve the Accessibility of Your Venue?

What Is a Phygital Experience and How Can It Improve the Accessibility of Your Venue?

A blind woman benefits from the phygital experience of a venue. She follows tactile guide paths and uses the indoor navigation app Evelity to find her bearings.

What Is a Phygital Experience and How Can It Improve the Accessibility of Your Venue?

 

Have you ever come across the term “phygital experience”? It consists in building a bridge between the digital world and the physical world to offer users a unique interactive experience. 

Seeing that the digital world takes more and more space in our lives, you’ll soon be more familiar with phygital experiences. They can take place in all aspects of our everyday lives to make them easier: shopping malls, museums, intersections…

But there’s a category of people for whom phygital experiences aren’t just “regular” experiences. Indeed, for people with disabilities, they represent accessibility improvement. Phygital experiences actually combine the best of both worlds to remove accessibility barriers and foster inclusion. 

Let’s see what shapes phygital experiences can take to improve accessibility!

What is the meaning of phygital experience?

First, we need to understand what the concept of phygital is exactly. The word blends “physical” and “digital” to demonstrate how phygital combines both worlds. 

Phygital uses technology to connect the digital world with the physical world. The goal is to provide users with a unique and interactive experience. 

To put it simply, technology is a means at the service of users. It is anchored in the physical world to provide them with a little extra via digital solutions. 

Phygital is like a bridge interlinking both worlds for the benefit of users.

Example of a phygital experience

A perfect example of a phygital experience is the game “Pokémon GO”. Maybe you’ve chased Pokémons yourself or you’ve seen people looking ridiculous in catching ‘em all but having a lot of fun. 

The game, launched in 2016, used augmented and virtual reality and also geolocation so that users could catch Pokémons nearby with their smartphones. 

People just needed their smartphone’s camera and their GPS to chase Pokémons and increase their collection. Pokémons were at grabs near their place of work, bus stop, the streets…, everywhere around them.

This game created a whole new social and phygital experience. Users could be easily recognized as they were alone with their smartphones. But it didn’t prevent them from sharing tips between them about where to find the little monsters they all loved. 

They could all meet in the real world and not just behind a screen from the comfort of their home. Thus creating an interactive phygital experience.

What does a phygital experience entail for people with disabilities?

Through phygital experiences, accessibility and inclusion can go further. 

As you may already know, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) aims at preventing any form of discrimination against people with disabilities. It lists a series of requirements for all places of our everyday lives to be accessible to them: public venues, crossings with accessible pedestrian signals, places of work for employees with disabilities, public transportation, housing… 

But there may be limitations at what’s possible to achieve in terms of physical accessibility in complex infrastructures. Especially the ones that were built in the previous century. It may not be possible to refurbish a very old infrastructure as it would be too costly.

That’s the case of the New York City subway. It first operated in 1904. At that time, accessibility wasn’t considered when it was designed. Today, users with disabilities bear the consequences of such a lack of accessibility.

The Big Apple’s rapid transit is committed to improving accessibility. The MTA has even turned towards innovation to achieve this goal.

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

In addition to planning the installation of physical accessibility equipment like elevators or access ramps, the MTA is currently testing the indoor navigation app Evelity for users with disabilities at the Jay St-MetroTech station

This app has especially been conceived to meet the needs of people with disabilities. It adapts to every user’s profile. 

This means that for wheelchair users, Evelity provides step-free routes. For blind and visually impaired people, the app provides step by step instructions thanks to their screen reader. 

In this situation, users with disabilities benefit from a phygital experience when using the subway. An experience tailored to their needs and capabilities. They have the best of both worlds in terms of accessibility.

Indeed, users with disabilities improve their mobility and still remain autonomous.

A phygital experience like this one enables them to have a more complete access to public transit. Especially in cases when technical or topographic barriers prevent it to be accessible to all through physical equipment. 

What are the benefits of implementing a phygital experience at your venue?

There are many benefits in creating an interactive phygital experience for people with disabilities:

Going further than the requirements of the ADA to be fully accessible.

Putting technology at the service of users with disabilities. It’s just a means to an end.

Having access to services. For example, the app Evelity provides geolocated cultural content in a museum in addition to navigation instructions.

Focusing on use and not just accessibility requirements and regulations. The goal is to be in the user’s shoes to understand their needs. But also how they walk around in a venue and how they use the equipment and services.

Giving users with disabilities back their rightful place in our society. People with disabilities are all around us. Plus, this doesn’t just concern the 61 million Americans with disabilities but all of us. It’s an opportunity to foster inclusion.

Check out a unique perspective on inclusion with this interview of Gabrielle Halpern, Doctor of philosophy:

Should We Say “Hybridization” or “Inclusion” Regarding People with Disabilities?

In what situations can a phygital experience enhance accessibility and inclusion?

Just like the ADA is enacted for all areas of our lives, phygital experiences can take place in each and one of them as well.

Pedestrians with disabilities

Let’s start with getting around in the city. When you’re blind or visually impaired, how can you know you’re in the right direction? 

Tokyo in Japan has responded to this question using tenji blocks. 

This consists of yellow tactile guide paths with a QR code. This tactile paving signage helps blind and visually impaired people get around at crossings, inside subway stations and in front of public venues. 

Round bumps indicate a traffic light, a train station entrance or the end of a platform and their parallel lines help them find their way.

The color yellow is important as it enlightens a visual contrast and thus can be better perceived by the visually impaired. 

Since the 1960s, blind and visually impaired people in Japan have been using this system. But it has been updated to help them find their bearings more easily: an app that scans QR codes set on tenji blocks was created.

Thanks to the shikAI app, people with vision disabilities can know where tenji blocks lead to and the remaining traveling distance.

Once again, it’s the combination of physical equipment and a digital solution that improves the accessibility of a city.

Users with disabilities

We’ve mentioned earlier Evelity for the New York City subway and its riders with disabilities. 

But such indoor navigation apps can be used at all types of complex public venues: shopping malls, hospitals, smart buildings, city halls, colleges and universities

Whether with old or new buildings, using technology to alleviate accessibility barriers can make a difference for people with disabilities. 

Phygital experiences provide them with the same opportunities as anybody else. They can go anywhere and have access to all services. There’s no limitation any longer. And all doors are and remain open.

Visitors with disabilities

Museums have always been dedicated to bringing culture to all, including people with disabilities. They’ve installed access ramps and lowered works of art for wheelchair visitors. They’ve provided tactile models so that blind and visually impaired people could touch them…

All these actions make art accessible. But museums have also turned to new technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality to both be accessible and provide their visitors with a unique interactive phygital experience.

For example, the Salle des Verres at the Louvre museum in Paris has chosen Tactile Studio, a French inclusive design agency promoting arts and culture for all, to create a phygital experience for their visitors.

It consists of a model of one of Henry II’s palaces capturing all the rooms and their furniture. It’s also equipped with a “sensitive” console for visitors to interact with the different rooms thanks to an interactive lighting system.

With this “sensitive” console, visitors can know more about the rooms of the palace and their history. They can also locate themselves in the palace.

This console acts as a mediation station: it has informative texts and pictograms for each room with infrared sensors. Visitors just have to pass their hand over the sensors to light up the rooms.

But there’s more: a sensory station with tactile and sonic exploration. The tactile orientation map for visitors enables them to find their location and the location of the artwork as it was during Henry II’s reign. 

Blind and visually impaired visitors can touch a model of a warrior’s helmet and immerse themselves in this artwork. They also have Braille texts with additional information.

All of this enables visitors with disabilities to immerse themselves in the France of Henry II and to interact with artworks. 

How to Make Museums More Accessible for People with Disabilities?

Another museum has also chosen a phygital experience for their visitors with disabilities: the Maison Victor Hugo in Paris, dedicated to the famous French writer.

Once again, we have Evelity, the indoor navigation app. But here, it does more than just guide visitors with disabilities from exhibitions to exhibitions. It also provides them with geolocated mediation content

Evelity also works as a guide providing visitors with explanations on the works they meet during their course.

A unique experience in order to better discover and understand the artworks. A successful and complete access to culture!

With phygital experiences, people with disabilities can step into a new world. A world where they can benefit from physical equipment and digital solutions to interact, find their way, learn, touch, hear and see. This enhances accessibility and inclusion of venues and places whatever they are. 

Phygital is a concept that can revolutionize their place in our society. They don’t have to be passive and be accompanied to go to a place. They can master their actions and mobility.

Want to know what technology can do to make the lives of people with disabilities easier? Check out these articles:

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

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

Disability as an Innovation Driver for the Smart City

Published on May 20th, 2022

media

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

Phygital experiences provide users with disabilities with the same opportunities as anybody else. They can go anywhere and have access to all services. There’s no limitation any longer. And all doors are and remain open.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

share our article!

more articles

The Ultimate Guide to Accessible Pedestrian Signals

The Ultimate Guide to Accessible Pedestrian Signals

The Ultimate Guide to Accessible Pedestrian Signals  Table of contents What are accessible pedestrian signals?Why do cities have accessible pedestrian signals?Who are APS for?How do audible traffic signals work exactly?What is pedestrian detection?Why are...

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.

The Number of People with Disabilities in the Workforce Is Rising: How to Include Them and Increase the Performance of Your Company?

The Number of People with Disabilities in the Workforce Is Rising: How to Include Them and Increase the Performance of Your Company?

A certain number of people with disabilities having a meeting in their offices

The Number of People with Disabilities in the Workforce Is Rising: How to Include Them and Increase the Performance of Your Company?

 

The number of people with disabilities in the US is already worrying: 61 million American adults. What does our society do to be more accessible to them? If there are more and more people with disabilities, is it enough? 

Because yes, the number of people with disabilities is indeed increasing, not just in the United States but in the whole world. And some of them are already active members of our society in the sense that they’re part of the labor force. What are the causes of this increase? How can we make the lives of employees with disabilities easier? In what way can they increase the performance of your company? 

You’ll see that each and every one of us could be concerned about disability at some point in our lives. But having a disability can help your company grow! 

What causes the number of people with disabilities in the workforce to rise?

To clarify, by workforce and labor force, we comprehend all people engaged in or available for work. This means that employees and unemployed people are part of the workforce.

Let’s first analyze what leads to disability to better assess how to enhance accessibility in a work environment.

The COVID-19 pandemic

We probably all know someone who’s had a symptom that lasted longer than 6 months after being affected by COVID-19. Apparently, this concerns about one-third of people who’ve had mild cases of COVID-19. We now talk of “long COVID”.

This means they may have experienced stroke, hypertension or fatigue symptoms. Plus, the lockdowns that took place also affected our mental health. Because of how pretty much the world stopped in 2020, including relaxation activities such as going on holidays or visiting friends and families, anxiety, depression and even PTSD thrived and have been thriving. After all, we’re still going through this pandemic and it looks like it’s becoming more and more part of our everyday lives.

Mental health issues are not to be discarded. Their impact is serious on our well-being and our functioning as individuals and as employees. Plus, they’re considered as invisible disabilities, that is to say that people may not seem like they live with a disability at first. It’s only when they’re facing a difficult or challenging situation that their disability is more obvious.

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

As you can see, long COVID-19 can result in having an invisible disability that can deeply affect people and their work lives. This can lead to sick leaves, to feeling more stressed at work, to having to deal with mental health issues, to having to declare to their employer they have a disability and that they need an adapted workstation…

People with vision disabilities in the next future

According to studies funded by the National Eye Institute, the number of people with vision disabilities in the U.S. will double to more than 8 million by 2050.

The same holds true for the number of legally blind Americans: it will also double to reach 2 million. 

How come these figures will soon double? It’s mostly due to untreated eye problems and an aging population. A lack of glasses, contacts or surgery to help with nearsightedness or farsightedness could lead to a visual impairment in the long run. Thus, access to health is vital to avoid vision loss. Even diabetes-related eye complications may lead to vision disabilities. 

That’s why it’s important for those vulnerable to have their vision regularly checked. But once again, this means accessing health. We need doctors, eye specialists, in our cities and in our rural regions, that are affordable.

Visual impairments and aging are linked since people 80 years and over are considered to be the most affected by blindness and visual disability. Due to their age, they may be more prone to eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataract and macular degeneration. 

But if a blind person is provided with the adequate equipment, a Braille display or Braille terminal with an embedded Braille keyboard, they can still work and have a long and fulfilling career, just like everybody else.

An increasing elderly population

In 2030, there’ll be more people 65 years and older than children in the United States, according to the US Census Bureau projections. We already mentioned that this category of population is more likely to develop vision disabilities but that’s not all. 

The elderly may also have mobility impairments which can lead to the necessity of using one or two canes or even a wheelchair or mobility scooter.

As we’re getting older, we all may at some point have to deal with some of these issues. A lot of elderly people have several impairments. For example, a person can have difficulties walking or standing up and have Alzheimer’s disease at the same time.

Depending on your year of birth, in the United States, you can have your full retirement benefits at 66 or 67 years old. But what will your health be like at that age? Will your workplace still be suitable for you and the needs you may have at a later age?

Additional facts and figures on the number of people with disabilities in the workforce

⊗  In 2021, there were 1.2 million more people with disabilities compared to 2020 (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

⊗  496,000 of them participate in the labor force.

⊗  65% of this additional 1.2 million employees with disabilities are under 65 years old.

⊗  Employees with disabilities with low-wages are more affected by the pandemic.

How to make workplaces accessible for people with disabilities?

Now that you know the number of people with disabilities in the workforce is indeed rising, the question that you need to ask yourself is what can I do to make their workplace suitable, accessible and friendly for them?

Removing accessibility barriers at workplaces rests on 3 key principles. 

Improve the physical accessibility of your workplace

What does physical accessibility stand for? It simply means making the building itself accessible so that your employees with disabilities can easily access it and get around within it.

⊗  Parking spaces for people with reduced mobility,

⊗  Access ramps,

⊗  Audio beacon at the entrance,

⊗  Large doors and halls,

⊗  Secured stairs with handrails and contrasting non-slip stairs,

⊗  Elevators and/or escalators,

⊗  Tactile guide paths,

⊗  Audio beacons at main rooms (meeting rooms, offices, canteens, toilets…)

⊗  Accessible toilets,

⊗  Pictograms,

⊗  Indoor navigation app…

Put yourself in a person with disabilities’ shoes and picture what they may struggle with. What are their needs? How can your workplace adapt to them? If your offices are particularly large and complex, like a business tower for example, your employees with disabilities may struggle to find their bearings.

That’s why an indoor navigation app like Evelity could be the perfect solution to suit their needs. This app adapts to every user’s profile. This means that a person using a wheelchair can set up the app so that it selects a step-free route. And a blind or visually impaired person can use it by setting it up with their smartphone’s screen reader. Thus, the app provides them with step-by-step audio instructions.

After all, 89% of blind and visually impaired people use a smartphone. It has revolutionized their mobility.

Evelity now equips the JaySt-MetroTech subway station in New York City, the Victor Hugo museum in Paris, France and the entire metro network in Marseilles, also France. What about your workplace?

Provide your employees with disabilities with accessible equipment

Now that your building is accessible, you need to focus on the workstation of your employees with disabilities. What type of equipment or adjustment do they need to work?

⊗  Adjusted work hours,

⊗  Assistive technology (Braille display, large-print and tactile keyboards, amplified telephone equipment, audio induction loops, seating and positioning devices…),

⊗  Instant transcription apps for the deaf and hearing impaired like Ava,

⊗  Calm and quiet spaces for people with intellectual disabilities and people on the autism spectrum…

Once again, it all depends on the needs of your employees with disabilities, the type of their work and how adapted their workstation can be. 

Cultivate inclusion for all to meet the needs of the number of people with disabilities working at your company

There’s no workplace more attractive than a workplace that favors and celebrates inclusion for all. Because you know that employees with various backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, skills and abilities are an asset for your company:

⊗  Outperformances,

⊗  Cutting edge and more innovating initiatives,

⊗  Higher employee retention rates,

⊗  Higher profits…

You can read McKinsey’s analysis and report on the subject:

Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters

But how can you cultivate inclusion for all exactly? You can start by showing up for your employees with disabilities. This means that you can provide all your staff with training in dealing and communicating with people with disabilities. And participate in it yourself whether you’re the CEO of a big company or a small business owner. 

We all may be afraid to say the wrong thing. Usually, we’re tempted to avoid talking to a person with disabilities because we’re not familiar enough with their needs and don’t know what to do. 

If that’s your case, you can dive into this series of articles to know how to address people with disabilities:

6 Tips to Communicate with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

8 Tips to Welcome a Person with a Physical Disability

9 Tips to Welcome a Person with an Intellectual Disability

12 Tips to Welcome a Deaf or Hard of Hearing Person 

With the proper training, ALL of your employees will feel comfortable, seen and heard. This will favor team spirit and team building.

As the number of people with disabilities in the workforce is rising, you’ll find yourself in need of implementing permanent accessibility solutions. They will bring them comfort and help them work without having to adapt or overadapt. And in the end, your company will benefit from having a diverse and inclusive workforce. 

Additional source:

COVID-19 Likely Resulted in 1.2 Million More Disabled People by the End of 2021 – Workplaces and Policy Will Need to Adapt

Want to know how our cities can adapt to the rise in the number of people with disabilities and new accessibility issues? Check out these articles:

How Can Accessible Pedestrian Signals Become Responsive to COVID-19?

Disability as an Innovation Driver for the Smart City

Creating an Accessible and Barrier-Free Society Through Inclusive Design: a Constant Renewal

Published on 22nd April, 2022

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Employees working in a business tower

If your offices are particularly large and complex, like a business tower for example, your employees with disabilities may struggle to find their bearings.

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Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

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Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

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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.

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

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

Riders on a platform are waiting for the train

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

 

With more than 1.5 billion passengers per year, the New York City subway is one of the most used rapid transit systems in the Western world. And it’s also one of the oldest. It opened in 1904, much before accessibility for passengers with disabilities was a requirement. Despite the technical constraints relating to the construction of stations, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is committed to making the network accessible to all. It does not hesitate to involve technological innovation to achieve this objective. Let’s look at the strategy adopted by the MTA to offer a better passenger experience to all riders.

70 more accessible subway stations by 2024

The New York City subway system was built in the early 1900s, much before wheelchair access was a requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). This partly explains that only 25% of the city’s 472 subway stations were accessible in 2018. The MTA is determined to dramatically increase this number by 2024. This is one of the goals of the Fast Forward plan, which was designed after New York governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for mass transit in New York City in 2017. As part of the strategic upgrades, this plan includes adding accessibility facilities to 70 stations, which will improve the user experience for all riders. These 70 stations come in addition to the 100 priority stations already identified by the MTA, which have been or will be renovated according to ADA requirements. To select priority stations for ADA enhancements, the MTA relied on three criteria: high ridership, transfer points and service to major areas of activity.

Accessibility features in New York City subway stations

Fully accessible stations have facilities designed for all categories of people with disabilities throughout the travel chain:

To access down the station from the street level: elevators or access ramps, handrails and tactile indicators on ramps and stairs, accessible service entry gates,

To buy tickets: accessible MetroCard Vending Machines, accessible station booth windows with sills located no more than 36 inches (91 cm) above the ground,

To access transit information: audio and visual information systems, including Help Points or Public Address Customer Information Screens,

To facilitate orientation: large-print and tactile-Braille signs,

To access trains from the platform: platform gap modifications or bridge plates to reduce or eliminate the gap between trains and platforms where it is greater than 2 inches (5.1 cm) vertically or 4 inches (10 cm) horizontally,

And accessible services: telephones at an accessible height with volume control, and text telephones (TTYs), accessible restrooms at stations with restrooms, if a 24-hour public toilet is in operation.

Accessibility in the New York City subway over the long term

But accessibility for people with disabilities on the New York City subway has been a topic for a long time. In 1973, Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act made it mandatory to make all public transit systems accessible. The MTA refused, arguing that making the subway system accessible would cost more than $ 1.5 billion. The MTA advocated instead for a specialized transport service for people with disabilities. In 1984, after a decade of fighting between the associations and the MTA, an agreement was reached which amended New York State Transportation and Building Laws to require the MTA to install elevators at 54 stations. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. It required all transit agencies to make their services and facilities fully accessible. They had to provide the list of priority stations to the Federal Transit Administration before July 26, 1992. This list was to be accompanied by the selection criteria used to designate priority stations and the work schedule. Transit agencies were granted a period of up to thirty years to make their stations accessible. The MTA’s plan provided for making 54 stations accessible by 2010. But in 1994, amendments were made to the New York State Transportation and Public Building Laws reinforced the obligations, increasing this number to 100 stations by 2020. The Capital Program 2020-2024 plans ADA-accessibility upgrades to 50 additional stations. This will allow disabled riders to always find themselves at most two stations from an accessible station.

In order to increase the number of elevators, the MTA endorsed the law “Zoning for Accessibility” in early 2021. This consists in pre-empting private land located near subway stations to build elevators. In exchange, the owner of the land obtains the right to increase the area of their buildings.

Between 2020 and 2021, there were 42% ADA-compliant stations in Manhattan, 21% in the Bronx, 21% in Brooklyn, and 30% in Queens. 

Information and communication with subway passengers

To coordinate the MTA’s accessibility plan and share with disabled riders, the MTA created the New York City Transit ADA Compliance Coordination Committee (CCC). The MTA attaches significant importance to the training of its staff. They should be able to handle specialized equipment and help riders with disabilities. But it also provides training for the riders themselves and their families, as well as for mobility specialists. The MTA trained 775 passengers between 1995 and 2019. These trainings allow them to use the subway system more independently and more safely.

The MTA is also working to improve information on the operating status of accessibility equipment. As early as 2007, it began to publish a list of broken-down escalators and elevators on its website. It has also allocated an annual budget of $ 1.3 million for their maintenance.

Innovation at the core of MTA’s strategy

The MTA is continuously innovating to improve the passenger experience on the New York City subway system. Jay Street-MetroTech station, located in Brooklyn, near the MetroTech Center, has served since the 1950s as a testing ground for many new developments: yellow raised safety disks as warning indicators at the edge of the platform, first automatic token dispensers, first fare cards, which became later the MetroCards, deployment of agents everywhere in the station, etc.

In 2019, this same station was used to evaluate new accessibility facilities. The MTA unveiled an accessible station lab. The lab comprised over a dozen features including Braille signs, tactile pads, wayfinding apps, diagrams of accessible routes, and floor stickers to guide passengers to the correct routes. 

The MTA is running in parallel the Transit Tech Lab with the Partnership for New York City. The Transit Tech Lab is an accelerator program for startups solving public transportation challenges. This initiative enables the MTA and other public transportation agencies to leverage innovative technology solutions to improve metropolitan area transit, with the aim to make New York the global leader in public transportation. Each year, the Transit Tech Lab launches a new startup competition to address top priority challenges. This initiative gives the selected companies the opportunity to pilot their solutions in real conditions and potentially deploy them. Accessibility was one of the challenges designated by the lab in 2020. Nine tech companies were selected to partner with NYC-area transit agencies. Among them was Okeenea Digital with its audio-based indoor navigation app Evelity. Evelity is a digital navigation system allowing people with all kinds of functional limitations to be guided, step by step, to the destination of their choice, according to their profiles and their abilities, within complex public transit networks. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, user tests have been significantly delayed. The pilot is still underway at Jay Street-MetroTech station. One of the objectives of the pilot is to evaluate the service provided by Evelity for customers with disabilities, and to study the scalability of beacon-based technology.

Other indoor navigation solutions have already been tested by the MTA, e.g., the Navilens app, which is based on colorful QR codes. This technology is still being assessed to inform riders at bus stops and track bus arrivals. These pilots show that technology has the power to improve the transit experience for all riders.

All of the MTA’s initiatives show a real willingness to improve the quality of service on the subway system despite the age of the infrastructures. While the road is still long, the progress is evident. And experience shows that technological innovation can solve many challenges for the accessibility of the New York City subway!

Discover more articles about accessible public transit systems:

How to Help People with Disabilities Get a Better Experience on the Subway?

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

A World Tour of Best Practices for a Subway Truly Accessible to All | Summary of a French Study

Published on December 10th, 2021

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An agent of the MTA on a train

The MTA attaches significant importance to the training of its staff. They should be able to handle specialized equipment and help riders with disabilities.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

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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.

What You Need to Do to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Intellectual Disabilities at Your Venue

What You Need to Do to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Intellectual Disabilities at Your Venue

A crowded café that welcomes customers with intellectual disabilities

What You Need to Do to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Intellectual Disabilities at Your Venue

Intellectual disabilities probably represent the less known impairment. What do they entail exactly? What are the needs of people having an intellectual impairment? By replying to these questions, you’ll be able to better understand your customers with intellectual disabilities. This will mark the first step in providing them with the best possible experience.

Of course we all know that word of mouth is still one of the most efficient ways to attract customers but quality service remains key to retain them. And for customers with intellectual disabilities, accessibility truly rimes with attractivity! It goes beyond complying to the ADA. Indeed, accessibility is the perfect opportunity for you to step up your game and enhance inclusion for all.

Ready to open your doors to everyone? Let’s see what you need to implement to welcome customers with intellectual disabilities!

What’s an intellectual disability?

First of all, it’s important to know precisely what we’re talking about. Having an intellectual disability means having difficulties learning and lacking adaptive behaviors. People with intellectual disabilities may struggle with problem-solving, reasoning, communicating and performing practical tasks in their everyday lives.

Some genetic disorders result in intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome and fragile X syndrome. Down syndrome, also called trisomy 21, is the most known intellectual disability. Generally, people with Down syndrome have the mental ability of an eight-year-old child but of course it depends on the person. 

But intellectual disability isn’t to be confused with cognitive impairment nor psychiatric impairment. 

Cognitive disability: this diminishes intellectual functions but not as severely as an intellectual disability. People with cognitive disabilities have brain injuries or neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Actually, a lot of cognitive disabilities affect memory.

Psychiatric disability: this regards schizophrenic people, people with bipolar disorders or anxiety disorders. But psychiatric disability doesn’t affect their intellectual capabilities, this simply makes them more difficult to use under certain circumstances or emotional states. 

Keep in mind that it’s not always obvious that a person has an intellectual disability. Indeed, 80% of disabilities are invisible! That’s why it’s best to avoid any type of judgment. You never know what a person may go through…

How can your venue be accessible to customers with intellectual disabilities?

Now that we know what’s hiding behind the words “intellectual disabilities”, we can focus on helping your customers living with intellectual disabilities having the best possible experience at your venue.

Enforcing the ADA

If your business has been open for a while, you may already be familiar with the ADA. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 protects people with disabilities against all types of discrimination. 

This means that customers with intellectual disabilities need to receive the same welcome and have access to the same places and services as anybody else. Any type of public venues is concerned and needs to be ADA-compliant: newly constructed venues and existing ones. Obviously, making existing venues accessible can be challenging because of major works renovation, the historicity of the building or its topography.

What’s sure is that providing all your customers with easy access to your building is just the first step. It’s more complicated once your customers with intellectual disabilities need to reach a service or find their bearings within your venue… Indeed, you need to create a safe and reassuring environment for them to feel comfortable.

Providing easy-to-read and easy-to-understand information

Seeing that people with intellectual disabilities can struggle to think, conceptualize and make decisions, the best way to help them understand what your venue and your services have to offer them is to make your information the clearest and the simplest possible. 

How can you do it exactly? 

Use easily understandable words,

Give examples to explain your words,

Make short sentences,

Use complete words instead of their initials,

Employ active sentences instead of passive ones.

Keep in mind you need to make sentences that don’t have any particular idioms or expressions that could confuse your customers. This doesn’t only concern people with intellectual disabilities but also illeterate people and the elderly. Some figures of speech like metaphors bring more confusion.

The same applies if you rely on videos or other types of mediums to welcome your customers. 

If your venue is particularly complex, a map at your information desk can truly be helpful. We’ll give you an extra tip: think of taking photos of the different areas and laying them out. That way, your customers can see what to expect and better recognize the area when they’ve arrived. 

Easy-to-read and easy-to-understand information is essential for customers with intellectual disabilities to explore in complete autonomy your venue. 

Establishing a clear navigation system within your venue

Another difficulty that your customers with intellectual disabilities may face is getting around and finding their bearings. Especially in a complex and large venue such as a hospital, a museum or a shopping mall.

Fortunately, you can set up easy solutions that will help them navigate their way by themselves, at their own pace. Plus, you’ll see all your customers will benefit from them!

Universal pictograms

They may represent the easiest and the simplest solution of all: pictograms. No need to explain anything at length, a colored icon will do the trick. 

A perfect way to let your customers know where they can find such and such services. Thanks to pictograms, they’ll be less likely to feel anxious, stressed or lost. 

Moreover, using universal pictograms will not only help customers with intellectual disabilities find the elevator or the restrooms but they’ll also be helpful for those who don’t speak the language or deaf people who rely on visual information to get around.

We’re all accustomed to universal pictograms. They speak the same language, that’s the beauty of it. In just a few seconds, everybody can understand what they signify and adjust their direction accordingly. This enables your customers and your employees to save time.

Navigation app to guide your customers with intellectual disabilities

You can rely on innovative technology to help your customers with intellectual disabilities find their bearings within your venue. More and more apps are dedicated to provide indoor navigation for people with disabilities. After all, 84% of them use a smartphone in their daily lives. It has become an essential tool for them to remain autonomous.

Let’s focus on a great navigation app you can easily implement at your venue:

Evelity: this app has been conceived to guide people with disabilities, regardless of their profiles and abilities, inside complex venues. For visually impaired users, the app provides audio instruction to guide them. For people with intellectual disabilities, the app provides easy-to-read instructions. Created by Okeenea Digital, a French startup company, Evelity now equips the entire Marseilles metro and the Luma Foundation, a museum in Arles. Both are located in the South of France. But this indoor wayfinding solution is crossing borders since it’s currently deployed at the JaySt-MetroTech subway station in New York City! 

Simply using an app, your customers with intellectual disabilities can freely get around and in complete autonomy. They don’t need to rely on your staff to locate a service.

Setting up a navigation app within your venue can be a great solution for you if you can’t undertake major renovation works to make it accessible. This can truly complete the current equipment you may already have.

Secured stairs

Depending on your venue, you may have implemented elevators or escalators even. But are you sure your stairs are accessible and safe? Can your customers with intellectual disabilities go up and down your stairs without any difficulties?

Here’s a recap of what your stairs need to be equipped with:

Easy-grip and continuous handrails,

Detectable warning surfaces at the top of each flight,

Contrasting and non-slippery stair nosing,

Contrasting risers on the first and last step of each flight,

Adequate lighting.

Once again, this type of equipment doesn’t only help people with intellectual disabilities safely get around within your venue. It actually serves different user profiles such as blind or visually impaired people or the elderly… Accessibility has enabled us to focus on bringing more safety for all.

Enhancing communication between your staff and your customers with intellectual disabilities

For people with intellectual disabilities, putting thoughts into words and understanding others can be difficult. What can you do to make communication with them easier?

Here, your staff has a key role: they need to do the utmost to provide the best possible service. And this actually holds true for any interaction with any customers. 

Providing your staff with the proper training to best assist customers with intellectual disabilities will enable you to create a safe and trustworthy environment for your customers. They would be more likely to come back to a place where their needs were heard, understood and met. All of that without being judged. 

Check out our 9 tips to best welcome people with intellectual disabilities! You’ll see that smiling, remaining calm and reassuring can make the difference. 

Besides, just as we saw earlier regarding access to information, make sure to use a clear, simplified language without any idioms or metaphors. This will help you and your employees better communicate with them.

You can also use different types of mediums to get your message across: make sure to always have some paper and a pencil nearby in case you need to draw something. No need to turn into Leonardo da Vinci, just do a clear and basic drawing if necessary.

Remaining patient and respectful will make your customers with intellectual disabilities get more comfortable and at ease. They may ask you or your staff a lot of questions and even be blunt. But it’s all just a casual conversation so stay yourself. 

Now, you know what challenges people with intellectual disabilities face and what you can implement to help them enjoy your venue! It’s up to you now!

Want to know more on intellectual disabilities? Read on these articles:

8 Clichés about Intellectual Disability

Public Transport: Accessibility Solutions, Also for the Intellectual Disability! 

7 Clichés About Psychiatric Disability

Updated on March 1st, 2022 / Published on October 1st, 2021

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An employee ready to welcome customers with intellectual disabilities

Providing your staff with the proper training to best assist customers with intellectual disabilities will enable you to create a safe and trustworthy environment for your customers.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

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Sign up now for our newsletter.

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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.

What You Need to Do to Ensure Accessibility for Deaf People at Public Venues

What You Need to Do to Ensure Accessibility for Deaf People at Public Venues

People having lunch in a restaurant

What You Need to Do to Ensure Accessibility for Deaf People at Public Venues

If your venue welcomes and receives people then accessibility for deaf people isn’t something to take lightly! How can your venue be accessible to the hearing impaired? What do you need to implement to be ADA-compliant?

Deaf people face three types of challenges when they go to a venue, whether it’s a restaurant, a shop or a museum: accessing information through the appropriate mediums, navigating within the venue and communicating with the staff. Accessibility barriers need to be removed for them to be able to fully enjoy your venue. See it as an opportunity to reach other customers. Don’t forget that satisfied customers are more likely to come back and to spread the word about a venue that fits their needs!

Let’s see what it entails for you and your venue to meet the needs of your deaf and hard of hearing customers! We’ve listed all the necessary requirements and equipment to properly welcome them!

Accessibility for deaf people: what does the law say?

You may already be familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act, also called ADA. Established in 1990, this law prevents discrimination based on abilities or disabilities. Its goal is to ensure that disabled people can have access to the same rights and services as anybody else.

Specifically applied to public venues, the ADA requires buildings and services to be accessible to people with disabilities. If your venue is listed below, then you’re concerned:

Shops and shopping malls,

Hotels,

Bars and restaurants,

Hospitals,

Banks

Colleges and universities,

Public services such as city halls,

Amusement parks,

Places of worship,

Sporting facilities like stadiums

Cultural places such as museums, movie theaters…

Whether it’s an existing building or a new one, there are some easy solutions for your venue to be ADA-compliant.

How to make your venue accessible to the deaf community?

To better understand accessibility, picture yourself driving on a highway: you’re enjoying a smooth and perfect ride with no obstacles nor potholes. Every exit is marked and can easily be accessed for you to carry on on your journey. Or if you’d prefer a less imagery scenario, you can call this concept by its regular name: a seamless mobility chain. This actually applies to all your categories of customers, whether they have disabilities or not. They need to easily go from point A to point C. This implies for point B to properly link points A and C. If you keep in mind this, it’ll be easy for you to picture where accessibility barriers need to be removed within your venue. 

Let’s see more precisely the three breaking points you need to pay attention to! 

Providing accessible information to deaf and hard of hearing customers

In a world where audio is the most common way to provide information, then the deaf community is excluded. Luckily, there are other ways for you to enhance accessibility for deaf people!

Web accessibility

Maybe your deaf visitors haven’t been to your venue yet and need to be more familiar with it beforehand. They may do some research directly on your website. You can help them apprehend your venue by focusing on your web accessibility. In fact, it’s part of the ADA requirements. For the deaf community, it means providing videos with subtitles or enclosed captions or a transcript and multiple contact methods in case deaf users need to speak to someone. Phoning is the usual method but you can also include other options such as email, live chat or text SMS. That way if a deaf person needs more information, they can easily contact and communicate with you.

Visual and textual information 

Since you can’t use audio to provide deaf or hard of hearing people information, you need to focus on visual and textual information. Make sure any necessary information such as opening hours, points of interest within your venue (reception desk, restrooms…) can easily be read and identified with the proper signage. You can combine text information with pictograms. It’s the best way for your deaf customers to reach the adequate service.

Any video you may have on display needs to be subtitled or have enclosed captions.

Enhancing navigation within your venue

Obviously, with a clear signage system and pictograms, your deaf customers can find their way within your venue in complete autonomy. Being autonomous and independent enables your customers to freely apprehend your venue at their own pace and without having to constantly ask a staff member. 

If you manage a shopping mall or any maze-like and large venue of that sort, keep in mind that it can be difficult for your customers with hearing impairment to find their way. They could feel overwhelmed and frustrated. But you can help them by choosing an indoor navigation app such as Evelity. It was especially designed to meet the needs of people with disabilities, regardless of their profile. Meaning that for those with a hearing impairment, the app only focuses on text instructions and icons to guide them. 

Evelity can suit public transit systems: it’s already fully implemented at the Marseilles subway network in France and even equips the Jay St-MetroTech Station in New York City. But the wayfinding app can also apply to museums where in addition to navigation instructions, it provides cultural content on the exposed artworks. The Luma Foundation in Arles, France chose Evelity to guide its visitors with disabilities, proving that culture can be accessible to all. 

Communicating efficiently with hearing impaired people

It’s probably the most challenging issue regarding accessibility for deaf people. Let’s take a look at all the solutions you can implement!

Trained staff

Your personnel have a key role to play to welcome the hearing impaired and offer them the best possible experience. That’s why your staff needs to be trained to deal with people with disabilities. Check out our article with 12 Tips to Welcome a Deaf or Hard of Hearing Person! Even a simple thing like making your staff members wear a name tag with their job title can be helpful!

But a good tip to keep in mind is to speak clearly and distinctly for deaf people who can lip read. And also to use a common vocabulary without word plays so that the American Sign Language interpreter (ASL) can easily translate what your staff is saying to the deaf person they’re with.

Equipment for hard of hearing people

Audio induction loops or amplification systems improve hearing quality of those wearing hearing aids. They’re easy to set up and to use. Always make sure your reception desk or information point is equipped with one of these devices. 

Technology to enhance accessibility

For sure, technology can be a powerful tool regarding accessibility for deaf people especially with smartphones. Indeed, a lot of apps help the deaf community understand and be understood by hearing people thanks to artificial intelligence. AI has truly become an asset to enhance accessibility and inclusion! You can make communication between your personnel and deaf customers easier by supplying your staff with work smartphones that have instant transcription apps such as Ava. This app can transcribe conversations between hearing people and the hearing impaired. Thanks to Ava, your staff doesn’t need to learn American Sign Language to understand deaf customers and deaf customers don’t have to lip-read what your staff is saying.

Both parties can follow a conversation without feeling frustrated. 

You’re probably wondering what you need to do to communicate with them by phone. No need to worry, your deaf or hearing impaired customers have probably installed RogerVoice on their smartphones. This app directly subtitles any conversation they have.

You now know everything you need to do to improve accessibility for deaf people at your venue! As you can see, solutions exist to remove accessibility barriers. Make a difference and make sure your deaf customers have the best possible experience!

Would you like to know more about hearing impairment? Dive in with:

8 Clichés About Deaf People

Public Transport Information Accessibility: 5 Solutions for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Users

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Staff members from a coffee shop

In a world where audio is the most common way to provide information, then the deaf community is excluded. Luckily, there are other ways for you to enhance accessibility for deaf people!

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

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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...

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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.