How Is Airport Accessibility Progressing for People with Disabilities?

How Is Airport Accessibility Progressing for People with Disabilities?

How Is Airport Accessibility Progressing for People with Disabilities?

 

Checking-in, dropping off luggage, going through the security checkpoint, boarding…, the course of a traveler can often lead to stress and worry. A largely amplified phenomenon for travelers with disabilities who struggle to move around and find their bearings in such huge places. Millions of people pass through airports every year. How is accessibility deployed within airports? What measures can be implemented to enable the 61 million Americans with disabilities to safely travel?

Indeed, when we travel, a lot of us tend to be stressed because of all the steps to follow and things not to forget. This feeling can be increased for a person with disabilities who needs precise information and a personalized care according to their profile.

Let’s make a quick scan of the progress of airport accessibility in the United States!

 

How to safely travel?

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) aims at prohibiting discrimination towards people with disabilities and at implementing accessibility measures in public accommodations. Thus, every American airport has to follow rules and regulations to make sure that travelers with disabilities can easily have access to the same services and advantages as other travelers. Moreover, the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 focuses on discrimination on airlines. They have to accomodate the needs of people with disabilities aboard aircraft. From any airport in the US, travelers with disabilities are provided with the same assistance services such as:

⊗ When purchasing their flight tickets, travelers can indicate if they need assistance;

⊗ The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) helpline helps travelers with disabilities to go through security checkpoints;

⊗ Pet relief areas for furry companions. Even they have their own private restrooms;

⊗ Airlines provide assistance throughout the whole trip (boarding, deplaning and making connections).

Even when travelers prepare their journey at home, they can easily know what type of assistance the airport provides since airports all have a dedicated page on assistance service on their website. Plus all airport websites have to be accessible to enable visually impaired people to easily get the necessary information. Such is the case with Denver International Airport (DEN) that lists all its accessibility services and details specific subjects (the location of its accessible parking spaces for example). A map of the airport and its terminals is available on the website but also on the airport app. Smartphones are indeed a vital tool for people with disabilities enabling them to gain more autonomy.

However, assistance services constitute a huge cost for airports. People with reduced mobility and people with disabilities more and more request these services that have difficulties to meet demand. Customer care representatives aren’t always available and some may not have received the appropriate training. If airports could focus on other accessibility measures, this could hugely relieve assistance services and provide more autonomy to travelers with disabilities. Indeed, they wouldn’t have to depend on assistance services as much. Plus there wouldn’t be as many complaints as there are now.

Following the ADA, travelers who didn’t have access to any services provided by airports can directly file a complaint online. Each airport website gives this opportunity to passengers, for example the Los Angeles Airport (LAX).

It’s to be noted that some people don’t want to use assistance services and prefer to travel by themselves or accompanied by a relative to help them through all the steps in their trip.

An efficient signage system is key to answer their needs and can easily be implemented to equip such a complex place like an airport:

⊗ Audio beacons that indicate to visually impaired people the location of different strategic points of interest (entrances, counters, restrooms…);

⊗ Braille signs;

⊗ Display screens with bigger letters and contrasting colors;

⊗ Pictograms with geometric shapes;

⊗ Guide paths for orientation;

⊗ An indoor wayfinding app like Evelity that guides from point A to point B people with disabilities (everything can be located: check-in counters and shops entrances).

Installing a clear and understandable signage system helps travelers with disabilities (blind or visually impaired people but also people with intellectual disabilities) to get their bearings, just like any traveler.

LAX already breaks ground thanks to the Aira app available on its site. It helps passengers to find their way on the premises. A lot of airports lean on technology to assist travelers. 

Easily accessing check-in counters and boarding gates makes our experience better. For travelers in wheelchairs, that means lowered counters, wide-access doors and security lanes. For them and other travelers with a lot of luggage, all airports have elevators, escalators and ramps. With wide ramps, one of the principles of universal design, people can easily and rapidly move around in the airport. Embracing universal design, airports create a better and more accessible environment to facilitate the trip of all their passengers. The restroom stalls of Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) have doors that swing out and side grab rails. Plus some space for those who have a carry-on suitcase.

 

A trained and receptive staff

Since every American airport provides its passengers with disabilities with assistance services, a trained and open staff is key to make sure a trip is going according to plan. But this proves to be difficult to achieve seeing that airports are faced with a constant turnover, plaguing the efficiency of the services. Continually emphasizing the importance of an adequate training program is critical to ensure that travelers with disabilities are properly taken care of.

Greeting with a smile, being informative, available, having empathy and adapting to the persons according to their profile and their needs all are essential qualities that make a good customer care representative. A true accessibility service that’s focused on helping others.

For travelers with a hearing impairment, a visual paging system can help them to stay informed concerning their flight since they can’t rely on audio messages. The Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) uses both a visual and an audible paging system to convey real-time information to passengers. At check-in counters, hearing impaired travelers still can interact with the staff thanks to sound amplifying devices. Besides, several apps can also help travelers with an hearing impairment to communicate with staff. For example Ava which can be downloaded on both the traveler’s smartphone and the flight attendant’s in order to facilitate their conversation. Even shops can be equipped with sound amplifying devices, induction loops, or use Ava or any other app, providing a comprehensive and efficient service to all their clients. Thus airport accessibility happens at different levels.

 

How to go to the airport?

The first step is going to the airport. By car? By train? By bus? What’s the best way to go to the airport for people with disabilities? 

A person with reduced mobility who uses their personal vehicle can park at different areas since parking airports are all equipped with PRM spaces. A true asset to get more independence! The John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) even makes its passengers with reduced mobility who use PRM spaces profit from discounts.

The Chicago O’Hare International Airport (OHD) can be reached by public transportation in different ways. Indeed, from downtown, passengers can take the CTA Blue Line train. The station within the airport is equipped with an elevator making it easy for people with reduced mobility to go to or leave the platform. Although not all CTA stations are accessible, its buses and trains have: spaces designated for people in wheelchairs, buses with ramps or that can kneel to the curb. Thanks to a station directly connected to the airport, passengers can gain more autonomy. They don’t have to depend on a taxi or on a friend to drop them off. Using a reliable system that adapts to people with disabilities, regardless of their profile, helps travelers feel safe and more comfortable in their trip. In a previous article, we saw that people with disabilities needed to count on an accessible subway. Travel without feeling any unnecessary stress is quite the luxury. 

It’s obvious that airport accessibility is progressing. The implementation of the ADA ensuring travelers with disabilities have access to the same services as other travelers has permitted to move things forward. Even if nowadays it’s easier to travel, airports still have to continue to listen to all its passengers. Other measures can make people with disabilities have a better experience during their travels. A constant renewal is necessary to truly answer the needs of everybody.

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Millions of people pass through airports every year. How is accessibility deployed within airports?

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Carole Martinez

Content Manager Junior

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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.

MBTA: a Global Model of Accessible Public Transportation

MBTA: a Global Model of Accessible Public Transportation

MBTA: a Global Model of Accessible Public Transportation

 

With 1,330,200 riders per day, including 30 to 40% who have disabilities or restricted mobility, the MBTA has long been committed to improving the accessibility of public transit in the Greater Boston. Over the last decade, 50 new station elevators and 1,000 accessible buses have been added. But access is still in motion. In May 2020, the Department of System-Wide Accessibility (SWA) released its latest roundup of current MBTA access initiatives. This report covers many topics ranging from infrastructure to vehicles, customer communication and employee training. Let’s review these projects that aim to make the MBTA transit system a global model of accessible public transportation.

 

Accessibility Improvements for Subway Stations

 

Although most of the MBTA subway stations have been built before wheelchair access was a requirement under the American with Disabilities Act of 1990, many of them have been renovated to be made accessible: all stations on the Orange Line, all but one on the Blue Line and the Ashmont–Mattapan High-Speed Line. Since August 2019, when the renovated Wollaston Station reopened, the red line is now 100% accessible as well.

Most of the underground portion of the Green Line is accessible. However, many surface stations on this line will be made ADA compliant with:

⊗ Raised platforms

⊗ Detectable warnings,

⊗ Benches

⊗ Elevators

⊗ New escalators.

Improvements must also be made to the paths of travel leading to the platforms: repairing defects on sidewalks, ramps, stairways, etc.

Other accessibility improvements in multiple locations across the system are planned for next years.

Wayfinding signage will be gradually replaced at the “Top 10” stations to make it clear and consistent and bring them into full compliance with ADA / MAAB regulations, LEP standards, and internal wayfinding requirements.

Automated door openers will be installed on at least one entrance to each subway station.

For customers who have difficulty reaching and interacting with the fare gates, the MBTA is working on a solution that enables them to pay their fare and open the fare gate without physically tapping their card.

 

Ongoing Projects for 100% Accessible Commuter Rail Stations

 

In 2020, 110 out of 142 MBTA Commuter Rail stations are accessible. 6 lines are fully accessible. Renovations, rebuilding projects and relocations are planned to reach a 100% accessibility.

According to the SWA report, 8 commuter rail stations are currently being renovated, repaired or upgraded to become ADA compliant with:

⊗ New compliant mini-highs,

⊗ New accessible routes,

⊗ New accessible parking,

⊗ High-level platforms,

⊗ Elevators and ramps,

⊗ Detectable warning panels.

The existing inaccessible Chelsea Commuter Rail Station will even be relocated to become accessible. Work is now under way and should be completed in fall 2022.

Many projects are running to standardize accessibility amenities such as bridge plates, mini-highs or detectable warning surfaces to the greatest extent feasible.

 

Upgrading Elevators and Escalators

 

Over the last decade, 50 new elevators have been installed. New constructions and replacements are underway or scheduled for next years. The MBTA will develop a system-wide elevator and escalator replacement plan to inventory existing units, adjust maintenance contracts, determine at what rate units must be replaced and remove barriers to replacing escalators and elevators quickly and efficiently.

The MBTA understands the importance of the cleanliness of elevators for a good customer experience. This aspect is essential for people with disabilities. The first step consisted in identifying key elements that have an impact on elevator cleanliness. Some decisions were made subsequently, such as implementing new cleaning contract, replacing flooring materials, assign Transit Ambassadors to inspect elevators and pilot new technology solutions like moisture identification devices.

Traveler information is an essential complement to physical accessibility. People with disabilities need to anticipate their travels and know in advance the obstacles they may encounter. That’s why the MBTA plans to install digital screens at elevators that provide real-time elevator information and alternative service options. Digital display screens will gradually replace printed flyers that are currently used.

 

Improvements and Reconstructions for Accessible Bus Stops

 

100% of MBTA buses themselves are accessible. In 2017, the MBTA surveyed all 7,690 bus stops for accessibility barriers. Bus stops were categorized as critical, high, medium, and low priority according to the accessibility level and numbers of barriers identified.

273 of them were identified as critical. These stops were so inaccessible that rollator and wheelchair users must get onboard and exit in the street, causing highly dangerous situations. The MBTA decided to close 170 of these “critical” bus stops and construct new ones. 70 have been completed to date and others are in construction or under design to be reconstructed in the next years.

844 bus stops were classified as “high priority” because of accessibility barriers such as a sloped landing pad, narrow sidewalk, lack of a curb, or unusable curb. Three design and engineering firms worked with the MBTA’s Service Planning Department to analyze situations and schedule access improvements. Roughly 100 “high priority” stops will be reconstructed by the end of 2020.

Regarding the update of bus shelters and amenities, the MBTA has launched a Request for Responses (RFR), the technical specifications of which were written in close coordination with the department of system-wide accessibility (SWA).

 

New Accessible Vehicles on the Subway

 

The MBTA is currently deploying new vehicles on Red, Orange and Green Lines. These vehicles feature accessibility improvements such as wider doors, seating areas for wheeled mobility device users, updated PA/VMS systems for better voice and text announcements. In addition, signage for priority seats is gradually being installed in the existing subway cars. The MBTA also pilots a new securement system in buses which allows wheelchair users to secure themselves independently.

 

Making Traveler Information both Audible and Visible

 

People who are blind or have low vision have difficulty accessing written information while people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing cannot understand audio information. In all cases, making information visible and audible benefits all users, whether or not they have a disability. The Customer Technology Department (CTD) and SWA will develop a policy that defines when, and by what means, digital signage must have an audible component as well as when information that is broadcast audibly must have a visual component.

As part of a digital display screen roll-out, the MBTA aims at developing an app for making the screens’ text-based information available audibly via a smartphone application. The development of the application was paused following discussions showing that blind and low-vision people were not ready to accept an application for that functionality alone. Further discussions are underway to add other useful functionalities. More generally, the MBTA is looking for ways that technology can help them make it easier for riders with disabilities to use the T.

 

Accessibility Training for Staff Members

 

Staff training is central in the department of system-wide accessibility strategy to ensure that travelers with disabilities have the best customer experience. SWA has developed a certification program which includes classroom and hands-on material, as well as videos documenting first-person perspectives from customers with disabilities. These programs are developed for bus and subway operations, but also for Transit Ambassadors, Transit Police Officers and Senior Leadership. Video productions have been delayed due to safety precautions related to COVID-19 but will resume as soon as possible.

 

New Interface for Customer Communication

 

Accessibility is always in progress and customers are in the best position to indicate accessibility barriers. The MBTA will finalize enhanced guidelines for tracking and resolving accessibility complaints. Additionally, a new module within the MBTA’s complaint database will be created to facilitate information-sharing and data analysis internally. The existing portal for accessibility complaints has already shown positive results. It facilitates collaboration and information sharing between departments and reduces the amount of time necessary to solve a complaint.

The MBTA also developed initiatives to notify customers of upcoming works. That’s the objective of the public engagement plan for seniors and people with disabilities.

The accessibility policy also involves information and awareness-raising of the general public. The MBTA plans marketing campaigns to spread the message that access benefits all customers – seniors, parents, students, commuters, tourists, and countless other customers who travel each day.

The accessibility of a public transit network like Boston’s is a huge job including infrastructure, vehicles and equipment. But all this would be small without staff training, traveler information and communication between departments. The MBTA maintains a massive data base on its website, which may be a source of inspiration for many transport authorities around the world.

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In Boston, over the last decade, 50 new station elevators and 1,000 accessible buses have been added. But access is still in motion.

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Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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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 Can Shopping Malls Be Accessible to People with Disabilities?

How Can Shopping Malls Be Accessible to People with Disabilities?

How Can Shopping Malls Be Accessible to People with Disabilities?

 

Over 116 000 shopping malls are spread in the United States of America and generate each year around 5 trillion dollars. But are they accessible for people with disabilities? 

Malls constitute the essence of shopping: there are a multitude of different shops in one place with cafés and restaurants too so that people can relax. Everybody can find what they need to at any budget. It’s the place you go to in a panic to buy the Christmas presents on Christmas Eve and where you spend hours with your friends to find the latest clothing trends, see a movie or grab a bite. In theory, every person who possesses a credit card is welcomed but there’s actually a clientele that’s not or barely exploited due to a lack of accessibility: people with disabilities. Representing around 20% of the population, they’re not a market that one should afford to discard. Consequently, all shopping malls should focus towards providing an accessibility for all in order to meet the needs of the totality of its potential customers. Customers with specific needs but who have the same value as any other. When a person has a disability, how can they easily and safely go to the mall? And find the shop where little Harry had found the perfect toy train set? How can a person with a disability calmly shop in a overheated, stuffed and oppressing mall? Depending on the handicap (physical, sensory, mental and psychological), the difficulties they can encounter are not the same so shopping malls need to adapt accordingly. 

Going to the Mall 

People with disabilities first have to carefully choose the shopping mall where they want to go. It may be best at first to avoid the largest malls such as American Dream in the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey that has over 450 stores in 3 000 000 sq ft. For a valid person, going to the mall is the easiest thing to do. They either drive there or use public transportation and having several connections doesn’t bother them much apart from the fact that it may take a while. But people with disabilities need to prepare their route.

This means going online to do some research: do they need to take a cab that would accept a guide dog or one that’s adapted for wheelchairs? If they decide to use public transportation, is the subway station or the bus stop near the shopping mall? Of course, it’s best to ride a subway that’s accessible and has the appropriate signing system. The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall, for example, in Arlington, Virginia, contains more than 170 stores and restaurants and can easily be accessed by subway from Washington, D.C. It can even provide accomodations in case people need time for their shopping spree. If they struggle to get around once they’re inside the mall, they can use a complimentary wheelchair and keep shopping in all simplicity. By checking online the several entrances to the shopping mall beforehand, people with disabilities can easily plan which entrance to access according to the shops they want to go to. Some shopping malls are equipped with audio beacons that notify the visually impaired person where the points of interest are located (entrances, exits…) and give them some information such as opening hours. Some solutions exist that enable a person with disabilities to be autonomous and serene in their trips. 

Getting Around Inside the Mall

 

People with reduced mobility can easily get around shopping malls which are equipped with:

⊗ Elevators

⊗ Escalators

⊗ Ramps

Some shopping malls were designed vertically so that shoppers can move upwards and downwards with centrally located elevators and escalators to connect all the stories. Thus, people with restricted mobility can reach them as quickly as possible.

Navigating inside a shopping mall for a person who is blind or low vision can be tiring and stressing, especially with so many obstacles on their way: moms with strollers who act like Godzilla, toddlers running everywhere and bumping into you, the people who hate shopping malls and are in a hurry to leave… In top of all that, people with disabilities have to stay calm and find the right shop. Thanks to the use of a GPS indoor on their smartphone, a visually impaired person can find their bearings. The Macy’s Herald Square store in New York has been one of the first retail stores to implement a digital assistance with its audio-based indoor navigation system. With this type of technology, all the stores, restaurants and other facilities of a shopping mall can be mapped and easily located. Anyone who uses it can even be redirected if they took the wrong path. 

As in the subway, a good signage system is key to enable disabled customers to safely navigate inside the mall such as:

⊗ Accessible information points

⊗ Pictograms with flashy color

⊗ Bigger font sizes for signs 

⊗ Guide paths 

Installing a practical and efficient signage system contributes to provide accessibility for all in an indoor labyrinth. 

A very good example of a mall accessible for people in wheelchairs is the Mall of America, the second largest mall in the States in terms of total floor area, located in Bloomington, Minnesota. People in wheelchairs can easily access any store, eating at a restaurant and enjoying the many attractions that the mall offers. Everything is thought to attract people in wheelchairs and make them feel welcome like any customer. Even their accommodations are accessible. 

Communicating with the Staff 

Shopkeepers and sales assistants focus on helping the customers in the best way they can. (At least, that’s what they all should do but we’ve all had bad experiences.) Whether a customer knows what they want to buy or need advice, a staff that’s trained to deal with people with disabilities will be precious and extremely helpful. A proper training and an improved awareness of the needs of people with disabilities would not only be beneficial on a human level but on an economic one as well as they could turn into regular customers. 

A hearing impaired person can be provided with an amplifier (FM systems) to fully understand the advice of the sales assistant. Plus, some apps exist such as Ava which transcribes in live the words of a group of people. The sales assistant and the hearing impaired customer just have to download the app on each of their phones. The microphones enable the conversation to be transcribed. Thus, the hearing impaired customer will receive the same service as any customer and will be more likely to come back if they had a patient and helpful sales assistant to assist them. 

The same applies for a person in a wheelchair who would need a suitable fitting room to try the clothes, lower checkout counters and removable digital payment terminals. All customers are supposed to leave the mall feeling like they’ve had a good experience. Committed sales assistants are a big part of the customer experience. 

Mixing with Other Shoppers 

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the crowd and by the constant noise and loud conversations. Some autistic people are particularly intolerant to noise and wear noise-cancelling headphones or ear defenders in order to protect themselves from exterior noises. 

Every situation can be stressing for a person with disabilities in a confined and busy place. Shopping with a patient friend who knows best how to assist a person with disabilities can be reassuring and can turn into a fun careless day.

Accessibility for all is still a work in progress but some shopping malls are already leading the way. They understood that they could be more welcoming and inclusive to meet the needs of any type of public and attract more shoppers once their malls turned accessible, meaning more profits for them and happy shoppers who will have a great time doing something easy that everybody does.

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Navigating inside a shopping mall for a person who is blind or low vision can be tiring and stressing, especially with so many obstacles on their way. (…) Thanks to the use of a GPS indoor on their smartphone, a visually impaired person can find their bearings.

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Carole Martinez

Digital Content Manager Junior

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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.

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

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

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

 

Twelve American cities are operated with a subway: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Juan and Washington, D.C. Ever since the first station opened in Boston in 1897, over 1000 stations, for a system length of around 816 miles in total, are now in operation in the United States of America. These railway transit systems, elevated and underground, represent a vast labyrinth that enables thousands of people to move around every day without using the often congested streets that we all know too well. 

If the subway is the favorite transportation solution for the major part of the population, it can prove to be a real puzzle for disabled people.

How can you feel safe in a congested and confined environment? How can you find your way around when you have to deal with complex stations? How can you reach the platforms in an environment where elevators are rare or even nonexistent?

We’re going to review the difficulties encountered by disabled people and the good practices to adopt throughout all the steps of a subway trip.

Welcome to the subway!

Preparing your trip

In order to go from point A to point B using the subway without any problems, there’s nothing like properly prepare your route. But this can be difficult for a disabled person.

Difficulties encounteredGood practices
Understanding the route to takeWebsite or app with a suited route
Lack of information on disruptionsReal-time information during disruptions
Lack of information on the presence and state of elevators/escalatorsReal-time information of the functioning state of elevators and escalators
Forgetting the routeReminder of the route

 

Finding the station

It’s not easy to find the subway entrance for those who are blind or visually impaired.

You need to choose a clear and homogenous accessible signage for the whole network. Universal accessibility requires good lighting, visual contrast, audio-based navigation systems, detectable warnings, and tactile paths.

 

Going down in the station

Due to the many steps that separate the station entrance and the station itself, the installation of elevators and escalators is essential for people with reduced mobility.

Since the majority of the network was built before 1990, a lot of stations can only be accessed using stairs. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), forbidding discrimination towards people with disabilities, cities had to review their accessibility standards. New York City, for example, has already renovated 120 stations and the number keeps growing.

A vertical access to the subway is critical for the millions of Americans and tourists with reduced mobility who would like to move around in a city. The lack of such measures compel them to use another means of transport or even stay at home.

Further information on accessibility on public transportation for physically disabled people

Buying a ticket

It’s impossible to pass the gate without purchasing a ticket.

You can find several options: at the station booth with the help of a staff member, at the vending machine or online. But these options need to be accessible.

Difficulties encounteredGood practices
Locating the station booth or the vending machineSound guiding system, visual signage and guide paths
Using the tactile buttons of the vending machines Embossed buttons
Lack of sound informationEarphone jack
Counter heightLowered counter
Difficulty to comprehend the offerSimplified presentation of information (pictograms)
Difficulty to readLarge-print and accessible vocabulary (Easy-to-read)
Stress due to the impatience of other usersBuying a ticket online, by text or by an app
Communicating with the staff Staff training to welcome and assist disabled people

 

Going through the gates

Going through the security gates can be stressing. The impatience of other users, the lack of time to cross them, the strength of the doors while closing are all anxiety-provoking and are intensified when you have a disability.

How do the visually impaired find the gates? How can they quickly go through them without hurting themselves or their guide dog? What about those with a mental disability intensified by stress or those who just need more time to comprehend their environment and how to move around?

The main goal of the transportation networks is to avoid fraud but it’s also important to enable everybody to safely access the platforms.

Difficulties encounteredGood practices
Inadequate passage width for a wheelchair Dedicated airlock for people with reduced mobility enabling people with strollers, wheelchairs and people being accompanied to access the platform
Ticket validity control too highLowered ticket validity control for people of small stature and children
Difficulty to insert your ticketContactless validation
Distinction between entry and exit gatesVisual contrast, illuminated pictograms for a better visibility (for example a green arrow and a red cross), guide paths
Fast closing mechanismPresence detector
No detector for children, people of small stature or guide dogsLowered presence detector
Difficulty for people who can’t use their right arm to validate their ticketGates with left access to validate, double validation inside PRM airlocks
Difficulty to find and operate the open button for PRM airlocksA visually contrasted and easy access open button

 

Finding the platform

In some stations, finding the right platform can turn into a real track game. The complexity of the area, the number of connections, the lack of information and the passenger flow during rush hours make it difficult to find your bearings.

In response to the difficulties encountered by the most vulnerable users, a clear visual and audio signage is essential. A digital navigation system can help them be completely autonomous and can make them feel reassured during their travel.

Finding a seat on board, whether the wagon is full or not, is not always easy. Making your way to ask for another person’s seat requires a certain confidence and sensory capabilities that some of us don’t have.

That’s the reason why it’s important to define priority and clearly identified seating spaces. 

Getting off at the right station

To know when you need to get off, a map of the entire subway line inside the wagon is vital. A visual and sound announcement before every station and during potential disruptions enables to counterbalance the mental and sensory impairments that some users may have.

For further reading, please see our article Public Transport Information Accessibility: 5 Solutions for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Users

 

Different needs

The stations that already are ADA-accessible in New York City dispose of:

⊗ Elevators or ramps

⊗ Handrails on ramps and stairs

⊗ Large-print and tactile-Braille signs

⊗ Audio and visual information systems, including Help Points or Public Address Customer Information Screens

⊗ Accessible station booth windows with sills located no more than 36 inches (91 cm) above the ground

⊗ Accessible MetroCard Vending Machine

⊗ Accessible service entry gates

⊗ Platform-edge warning strips

⊗ 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

⊗ 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

It’s up to the transportation network companies to set up adequate solutions to better meet the needs of the disabled. A dialogue between associations representing the disabled and those in charge of the network enable to address in the best possible way the needs of the intended people.

Although the ADA has enforced the transportation network companies to review their planning since 1990, accessibility is still a work in progress. Some stations show a fine example of what accessibility should be but most of them still need to fit the required standards compelling the users to get around via another means of transport.

A lot of solutions, whether they are known or groundbreaking, enable to reach the accessibility standards fixed by the regulations. Discover some of them on our website

Further reading on accessibility in New York City

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In response to the difficulties encountered by the most vulnerable users, a clear visual and audio signage is essential.

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Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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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.

[INFOGRAPHIC] Smartphone Use and Activities by People with Disabilities

[INFOGRAPHIC] Smartphone Use and Activities by People with Disabilities

[INFOGRAPHIC]

Smartphone Use and Activities by People with Disabilities

 

“People with disabilities don’t use smartphones.”

Today smartphones can offer reliable and low-cost assistance solutions for people with disabilities. Apps, GPS, smartphone accessibility settings … most of these features have now become essential to overcome everyday obstacles but also to take advantage of these technological gems in the same way as the rest of the population.

It is often mistakenly believed that people with disabilities cannot use a smartphone. However, whether they have sensory, cognitive or motor disabilities, they do have access to mobile technology, but with some variation for specific activities.

Take a look for yourself!

Infographic Smartphone use and activities disabled people

The study was conducted between 2015 and 2016 by the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technologies Shepherd Center.

A total of 7,500 people with a typology of disability responded to the survey, which is distributed as follows:

Difficulty walking, standing, or climbing stairs: 42%

Hard of hearing: 31%

Deaf: 12%

Visually impaired: 13%

Blind: 6%

Difficulty using hands or fingers 25%

Difficulty concentrating, making decisions or remembering: 21%

Frequent worry, nervousness or anxiety: 23%

Difficulty using the arms: 20%

Difficulty speaking: 17%

 

5 key figures:

⊗ 84% of respondents say they use a smartphone on a daily basis

⊗ Reaching 91% when we include the use of tablets

⊗ People with disabilities use their smartphone’s GPS 30% more than the rest of the population

⊗ Which represents 72%

⊗ 70% of them use apps.

 

The study was carried out between 2015 and 2016 in the United States by the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technologies Shepherd Center: read the full survey.

 

Further information:

Wondering how the visually impaired use a smartphone? This question comes up often and it is normal! 

The smartphone should be synonymous with inaccessibility for the blind and visually impaired. And yet, it has become an indispensable companion for many of them.

 

Find out how: The smartphone, a revolution for the blind and visually impaired!

 

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91% of people with disabilities use a smartphone or a tablet on a daily basis.

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Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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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.

Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: Accessibility Equipment Update

Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: Accessibility Equipment Update

Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: Accessibility Equipment Update

 

On the occasion of the Summer Olympic Games in 2020, the Japanese capital is playing host to nearly 500,000 tourists and 4,400 Paralympic athletes from August 24 to September 9, 2020. The city has already experienced the excitement related to such an event in 1964 and considerable work had been undertaken. This year, the challenge for Tokyo will be to welcome thousands of people who will flock from all over the world to attend this unique event and among them several thousand people with special needs.

The overall budget of the event is estimated at a minimum of $ 3.4 billion. A huge investment which is explained notably by making Olympic area and city infrastructures accessible to everyone.

But what about the accessibility equipment for the Olympic Games really? What is the national legislation in force related to accessibility? And what examples of application these laws have to date? We will see that the organization of this event is a great showcase for accessibility but that efforts still need to be made.

Local accessibility regulations

The number of elderly people is constantly growing in Japan. The older the population, the more the need for accessibility increases. In response to this growing problem, the Ministry of Territory, Infrastructure and Tourism brought into force in 2008 the “barrier free” law in order to allow everyone to move independently in public spaces such as train stations, airports, ports but also shopping centers and public buildings.

The accessibility of public spaces has resulted in numerous initiatives such as the installation of ramps, elevators, tactile floor markings, spaces reserved for wheelchairs users and information in braille.

The election of Tokyo in 2013 as the host city for the Olympic Games accelerated the process of implementing this law and enabled as many people as possible to benefit from this sporting event. All accessible places will be identifiable by a blue sticker during the Olympic Games in summer 2020.

 

Olympic Games’ accessibility guidelines

In collaboration with relevant state organizations, the Tokyo government, municipal authorities and associations representing people with disabilities, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee formulated accessibility guidelines for the Olympic Games, which were approved by the international paralympic committee.

Among the competition venues, 24 already exist, 10 will remain temporary and 8 have been built specially for the Games. The other places targeted by the accessibility guidelines include existing accommodation places and public transport as well as those created for the occasion.

Access and circulation equipment

These guidelines apply to all access and circulation equipment such as:

⊗ Access routes and movement areas which must be free of obstacles and a minimum of 5.9 feet wide.

⊗ The ramps if access to the same height from the ground is not possible (different inclinations depending on the sites are proposed in the guidelines).

⊗ Stairs whose steps must be of uniform height and depth, avoiding spiral staircases.

⊗ Ground surfaces which must not present any risk of tripping and offer reliable directional indicators which adapt to all users. In addition, exterior pathways must be equipped with tactile paths.

⊗ Reception desks, entrances and exits must be accessible to people with reduced mobility.

⊗ Doors must be designed so that they can be pushed by people in wheelchairs, pushing strollers, or carrying heavy objects.

⊗ Elevators and escalators which must be installed near passageways.

Equipment dedicated to spectators

Regarding equipment dedicated to spectators, the guidelines also makes recommendations for:

⊗ Seated places: at least 0.50% of the total number of places must be accessible to people with reduced mobility. The same ratio is applicable to places dedicated to their companions.

⊗ The toilets and changing rooms must be designed to accommodate people with reduced mobility as well. A unisex toilet intended to accommodate a person in a wheelchair is compulsory for each toilet block.

For more details on the recommended technical specifications, please refer to the 2020 Olympics accessibility guidelines.

An example of application of the accessibility guidelines: the Tokyo Games Athletes’ Village

The Village concept is based on the principle of universal design. A place designed specifically for the occasion and 100% accessible to allow athletes to relax and concentrate.

The Village fully complies with the committee’s accessibility guidelines. Every detail has been thought out to accommodate Paralympic athletes in order to ensure their comfort for the competition.

For example, the Tokyo government has carried out a study to ensure that the configuration of the elevators meets the specific requirements of the Tokyo 2020 Games as well as long-term needs. Also, double rooms have been converted into single rooms so that athletes with special needs can benefit from sufficient space.

With a maximum slope of 2.5 degrees, the Olympic Village site is geographically adapted to accommodate all visitors. The access to the seaside was designed with a slight slope. Also, the longest distance between the athletes’ entrance and the residences is 929 yards.

 

Transport: a futuristic shuttle to reduce obstacles

Another example of a practical accessibility application, this time related to transportation, is Toyota’s futuristic Accessible People Mover (APM) shuttle. As the global Olympic partner, the automaker has developed an electric vehicle for short distances. The 200 shuttles will be able to transport athletes, staff and visitors with mobility difficulties to the various sites of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Using an integrated ramp, the vehicles designed specifically for the Games can transport two passengers and one person in a wheelchair at a time for the “last one mile”.

 

To conclude

If Japan remains an example in terms of accessibility in Asia, it still has a long way to go to match its European counterparts.

The President of the International Paralympic Committee Andrew Parsons remains particularly worried about the accessibility of hotel rooms in the city. Recently, hotels with 50 or more rooms were required to have only one accessible room. The law has recently been changed to bring this level to 1% of the total number of rooms per hotel. This reform will be a positive legacy for the Paralympics, but is likely to arrive too late for the competition itself.

In general, Japan maintains protective towards its disabled citizens. Despite the new regulations and the overall improvement in the accessibility of public places, “you don’t see people with disabilities moving around, because there is a cultural barrier. They are expected to stay at home, ” said Andrew Parsons.

However, the organization of the Olympic Games remains a great opportunity to change mentalities and regulations. As a legacy of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Beijing Airport now has a parking specially adapted for disabled people. The event also helped build wheelchair ramps in streets, malls and major cultural attractions.

Another highlight during the Beijing Olympics, the city installed accessible pedestrian signals at pedestrian crossings to assist people with visual limitation.

Like Beijing and the other host cities, let the positive pressure on Tokyo help the Japanese capital make the transition to a more accessible city.

media

The election of Tokyo in 2013 as the host city for the Olympic Games accelerated the process of implementing the “barrier free” law and enabled as many people as possible to benefit from this sporting event.

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

follow us!

more articles

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.