How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

A train arriving at the JaySt-MetroTech subway station in New York City where tests are currently being held to foster inclusive mobility

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

You probably have heard of inclusive mobility but do you know what it actually means? For public transit all over the world, this notion gets more and more important. And more realistic to implement as many accessibility solutions enable people with disabilities to use public transport.

Because that’s what inclusive mobility entails. It gives people with disabilities more freedom and spontaneity to easily go to work, attend their kid’s recital, have a drink with their friends…

Let’s see what inclusive mobility solutions you can set up for your city’s public transit. You’ll be able to provide users with disabilities with a high-quality service.

What is inclusive mobility?

A concept you must have heard of but you may not have taken the time to decipher. What is the meaning of inclusive mobility?

It consists in creating a barrier-free environment where all types of users, regardless of their capabilities, can easily come and go. 

After all, mobility is the ability to move freely. And inclusion represents the idea that everyone should be able to go to any type of venue, enjoy the same activities or experiences, benefit from the same services…

Of course, this concerns people with disabilities. This means that for inclusive mobility to be a reality for them, public transit needs to be accessible.

Several ideas are at stake with inclusive mobility for people with disabilities:

 ⊗ Improving their independence, autonomy and spontaneity when getting around,

 ⊗ Making sure they don’t have to adapt to public transit. It’s up to public transportation to adapt to their needs and capabilities.

 ⊗ Providing them with the same choices as everybody else: the ability to use public transportation if they want to. 

What solutions favor inclusive mobility at public transit?

Accessible equipment, digital apps, there’s a whole variety of solutions to make public transit inclusive for riders with disabilities:

 ⊗ Elevators,

 ⊗ Escalators,

 ⊗ Stairs with nosings, handrails and a visual contrast

 ⊗ Access ramps,

 ⊗ Lowered counters,

 ⊗ Lowered ticket validity control,

 ⊗ Tactile guide paths,

 ⊗ Pictograms,

 ⊗ Visual and audio announcements… 

By now all these solutions may sound familiar to you but there are others you should particularly pay attention to. They’re a game-changer for the accessibility of a public transit network.

 ⊗ Audio beacons: a solution that helps blind and visually impaired people locate the entrance of a subway station, the elevator, the ticket machine, the counter and any other service available within the network. 

Blind and visually impaired users need to rely on an efficient audio signage system to find their bearings. And also to have access to information. The audio beacon’s message can be about the direction of the line or the timetables.

Audio beacons are very easy to install, maintain and cost-effective. Thanks to this equipment, employees aren’t solicited to guide a visually impaired person. They can focus on helping them by providing the information or services they need. 

 ⊗ Navigation apps: are accessible and inclusive indoor navigation apps really a thing? The answer is yes. Our navigation app Evelity takes into account every type of disability. This means it adapts to the user, regardless of their capabilities.

Blind and visually impaired people: Evelity provides step-by-step audio instructions thanks to a screen reader (VoiceOver for iOS and TalkBack for Android).

Deaf and hard of hearing people: visual instructions with text and icons.

People with physical disabilities: visual instructions. The app provides personalized routes. For example, a wheelchair user is only given step-free routes for their experience to be optimal.

People with mental disabilities: easy-to-read and understand instructions and icons.

This makes Evelity the perfect solution for the inclusive mobility of a public transit network. This is why the Marseilles metro in France has chosen to implement it across its entire network. And it has also set foot on American soil: Evelity is currently being tested at the JaySt-MetroTech subway station in New York City.

What is Evelity the perfect solution to make public transportation accessible?

 ⊗ It truly adapts to all types of disabilities.

 ⊗ Its technology enables it to give precise step-by-step instructions. Indeed, its geolocation provides a 1,2 m precision in order to safely guide users in a public transit network.

 ⊗ It enables users to easily find their way around with autonomy. They can use public transportation just like everyone else.   

 ⊗ An indoor navigation app is less expensive than refurbishing works to make old subway systems accessible. That’s exactly one of the reasons why the MTA turned to testing digital solutions at JaySt-MetroTech station. 

Is phygital the way to inclusive mobility?

The combination of both accessible equipment and digital solutions enables public transit to be inclusive and accessible. With phygital, riders with disabilities can better interact with the accessible solutions at their disposal within a public transit network. 

Because that’s what’s at stake here: making sure people with disabilities can easily use public transportation to gain more freedom and more spontaneity when getting around.

A digital solution combined with physical accessible equipment guarantees inclusive mobility for all categories of people. That’s called phygital.

But for a navigation app to properly work, physical accessible equipment is still necessary. Because, of course, a wheelchair user can’t use Evelity if there’s no elevator or access ramp leading to public transportation. 

Public transit needs the best of both worlds.  

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

Why is it so important to implement inclusive mobility at public transit?

As part of the ADA, public transit has to be accessible for people with disabilities. Paratransit services have been set up when fixed routes aren’t fully or not at all accessible to help people with disabilities get around. But such services are expensive. Plus, they have always intended to be temporary to give time for public transit to be accessible.

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

But the problem is that time isn’t on the side of public transportation. Indeed, a federal court has recently ruled against the MTA because of accessibility issues.

The lawsuit was filed after the MTA renovated Middletown Road station in the Bronx where no elevator was installed for people with disabilities to access the station.

However, the ADA requires the installation of an elevator whenever a public transit network renovates a station in a way that affects its usability regardless of the cost. The only concern remains the technical feasibility of such renovations. 

It’s to be noted that only 25% of New York City’s 472 subway stations were accessible in 2018 thus leaving behind people with disabilities who cannot ride with the MTA.

Fortunately, the MTA is committed to making accessibility and inclusive mobility a reality for them by focusing on digital solutions like Evelity.

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

Bear in mind that in the United States, 45% of Americans have no access to public transit. This means that what happens in New York City could set an example for other major cities in the country. 

With phygital solutions, inclusive mobility is within our grasp. Public transit can truly be accessible and inclusive for all users. The question now is: are you ready for more accessibility?

Want to know more about the accessibility of public transportation? Check out these articles:

MBTA: a Global Model of Accessible Public Transportation

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

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

Published on November 18th, 2022

© Okeenea

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A blind woman uses Evelity in the Lyon metro for inclusive mobility

The combination of both accessible equipment and digital solutions enables public transit to be inclusive and accessible. With phygital, riders with disabilities can better interact with the accessible solutions at their disposal within a public transit network.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager & Copywriter

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How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?You probably have heard of inclusive mobility but do you know what it actually means? For public transit all over the world, this notion gets more and more important. And more realistic to implement as many...

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...

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on the accessibility market.

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

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

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

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

A man in a wheelchair in the streets

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

As a chief executive officer of a transit authority, you know how challenging it is to provide a reliable public transit system to all riders. And how expensive it is to set up paratransit services for people with disabilities.

But you can reduce their costs while maintaining a quality service for all users. How exactly? With an innovative app that can guide people with disabilities within your public transit network. 

Technology, combined with accessible physical equipment, can have a significant change for the everyday lives of people with disabilities. A change towards inclusive mobility. 

After all, paratransit services have only been set up to let public transit systems have time to be more accessible. And it seems this time has come.

Buckle up to find out what the future of transportation has in stock for you. You’ll see this future isn’t that far away…

What solution can be more cost-effective than paratransit services?

Let’s take a look at innovative technologies, more specifically an indoor navigation app conceived for people with disabilities: Evelity.

A single app that can help riders with disabilities navigate your public transit system with autonomy:

Evelity is designed to suit every type of profile:

     ⊗ A blind or visually impaired user has audio instructions thanks to VoiceOver and TalkBack.

     ⊗ A deaf or hard of hearing user has text instructions.

     ⊗ A person with reduced mobility like a wheelchair user benefits from optimized and step-free routes.

     ⊗ A person with intellectual disabilities has simplified interfaces.

⊗ It provides riders with disabilities with more autonomy: they just have to use their smartphone to be guided within your public transit network. 84% of them use a smartphone on a daily basis.

⊗ They can also have more spontaneity. Something they don’t have with paratransit services as they need to book their trip at least 48h in advance. With an app, no more on-demand transportation, they can rely on public transport just like everyone else.

But why is it worth it for you?

⊗ More riders with disabilities who use your subway or your bus means less paratransit services to handle. Consequently, your costs related to these services are reduced by simply making Evelity accessible to your users.

⊗ Less carbon emissions: more people using public transportation means less paratransit vehicles on the roads. Definitely good for the environment. 

⊗ You have a positive impact on people’s lives: thanks to a more accessible public transit, people with disabilities are offered the same choices as other riders. They can choose to go to work by bus or by subway. They can get around with more freedom.

⊗ You can foster inclusion: you give your public transit system a universal sense. All are welcome, regardless of their capabilities. 

⊗ You can improve an existing service and not just for riders with disabilities. It’s not just them that can use Evelity. But also the elderly who may feel anxious in a complex environment, tourists who don’t speak the language, people who have never used your subway before…

Evelity is currently being tested at the JaySt-MetroTech subway station in New York City. The MTA is committed to providing an accessible and inclusive subway network. It has perfectly understood that improving the mobility of people with disabilities within their subway is key to enhancing their experience and quality of life.

But the navigation app is fully deployed on the entire subway network of Marseilles, France. It has become the first subway system to bet on this innovative solution. A technology that focuses on users to better meet their needs. 

What should you implement for Evelity to improve the accessibility of your public transit network?

Have you heard of the term “phygital”? The words “physical” and “digital” are blended to combine both worlds.

Phygital can be seen as a bridge connecting technology and physical equipment. The goal is to provide users with a unique and interactive experience. 

As you must have guessed, Evelity represents the digital world. An app that guides riders with disabilities. But for this app to be used, your subway stations or bus stops need to be accessible in the first place.

That’s where accessible physical equipment takes place. People with disabilities need to rely on access ramps, guide paths, audio beacons to locate the subway entrance…

Physical accessibility completes technology. Phygital provides the best of both worlds. That’s how your public transit network can be accessible. Because if it’s more accessible then people with disabilities won’t need to use paratransit services. And eventually, the costs related to them will be reduced.  

How much do paratransit services cost?

According to the National Transit Database (NTD), transit operators spend 5$ on a fixed route bus trip. For paratransit services, its cost goes from $60 to $90. 

Over the years, the costs of paratransit services have kept increasing due to the growing of the aging population. 

Indeed, the average cost per paratransit trip increased by 20% between 2015 and 2018. This represents tens of millions for transit authorities which means a huge portion of their budget is dedicated to guarantee users paratransit services. 

But the problem is that this money isn’t committed to address accessibility issues in public transportation. It’s there to maintain a service that has been created to be temporary.

Why are paratransit services so costly?

The day-to-day operations of paratransit services are extremely expensive for transit authorities: gas for vehicles, the vehicles themselves and their servicing, the wages of the drivers…

⊗ Paratransit services focus on individuals instead of groups of people. They can’t group trips efficiently otherwise people with disabilities would have to wait too long and miss their appointments.

⊗ Depending on the area to cover, a single trip can be expensive as it’s difficult to carry many passengers in a vehicle.

⊗ People with serious disabilities may need to take longer to board and deboard. This affects productivity for a vehicle of paratransit services.

Why does your public transit network need such a service in the first place?

When enacted, the ADA also specifically focused on public transportation. By this, we mean that public transportation has to provide people with disabilities with an accessible network to easily get around: a seamless mobility chain.

Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, the same holds true for making public transit accessible for riders with disabilities. After all, we know it’s not easy for a subway to be accessible. The refurbishments necessary for a very old system with sprawling stations can be enormous.

That’s why the ADA has set up requirements for paratransit services: they take place within ¾ mile of all fixed routes of public transit for people who cannot use the public bus system or for those who cannot get to a point where they could access it. 

But the ultimate goal is to have a fully accessible public transit system for the aging population and the 61 million people with disabilities in the United States to navigate in their city. This is even more striking when we think about the 45% of Americans who have no access to public transportation. 

That’s why a navigation app like Evelity, combined with accessible equipment, can be helpful. Thanks to this app, your public transit system is more accessible and inclusive to all. 

People with disabilities are ready to use technology to improve their mobility. You can make this a reality by implementing an indoor navigation app suited to meet their profiles. Paratransit services can be significantly reduced. And the same applies to their costs. Now the question is are you ready for more inclusive mobility?

Want to know more about accessible public transportation? Check out these articles:

MBTA: a Global Model of Accessible Public Transportation

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

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

Published on October 21st, 2022

Man in a wheelchair: © Unsplash

JaySt-MetroTech subway station: © Okeenea

media

The entrance of the JaySt-MetroTech subway station in New York City with turnstiles

But the ultimate goal is to have a fully accessible public transit system for the aging population and the 61 million people with disabilities in the United States to navigate in their city. This is even more striking when we think about the 45% of Americans who have no access to public transportation.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager & Copywriter

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

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more articles

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?You probably have heard of inclusive mobility but do you know what it actually means? For public transit all over the world, this notion gets more and more important. And more realistic to implement as many...

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.

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.

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

media

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

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

share our article!

more articles

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?You probably have heard of inclusive mobility but do you know what it actually means? For public transit all over the world, this notion gets more and more important. And more realistic to implement as many...

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.

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.

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

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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

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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.

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.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

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How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?You probably have heard of inclusive mobility but do you know what it actually means? For public transit all over the world, this notion gets more and more important. And more realistic to implement as many...

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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How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?You probably have heard of inclusive mobility but do you know what it actually means? For public transit all over the world, this notion gets more and more important. And more realistic to implement as many...

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.