How to Guarantee a Seamless Mobility Chain to Users with Disabilities?

How to Guarantee a Seamless Mobility Chain to Users with Disabilities?

The beginning of a mobility chain as users are entering a train station

How to Guarantee a Seamless Mobility Chain to Users with Disabilities?

Whether you are a subway network operator, an architect, a roadway manager or a museum director, guaranteeing a seamless mobility chain to your users isn’t the conundrum you’d expect.

Having an accessible and uninterrupted mobility chain enables people with disabilities to remain autonomous during their trips. A visually impaired person needs to be able, among other things, to find the subway station, go to the platform and make their connection by themself. The same applies to a wheelchair user. The curbs need to be lowered so that they can enjoy the city without any difficulties.

There’s a whole range of solutions that can guarantee people with disabilities, regardless of their profile, a real autonomy.

In this article, we’ll explain to you all the links that constitute the mobility chain so that you can set up easy devices for the benefit of your users!

 

A continuous mobility chain: a major issue

For people with disabilities, getting around can prove to be a major challenge. Any obstacles or barriers on their way can prevent them from getting around in a spontaneous way and therefore damages their autonomy, ruining, to a certain extent, their everyday lives. That’s where the mobility chain takes place.

The mobility chain can be summed up through these various stages:

1. Preparing your trip;

2. Using sidewalks and pedestrian crossings;

3. Using public transportation;

4. Coming up to the building and locating the main entrance;

5. Locating the adapted path to reach the chosen service;

6. Using horizontal and vertical circulations;

7. Reaching the chosen service, communicating with the staff;

8. Locating the adapted path to leave and exit the building.

We can see that the mobility chain forms part of accessibility. It truly is essential for people with disabilities since a continuous mobility chain enables them to move around more freely. Not having to ask someone for help when there are existing solutions so that they can manage by themselves turns out to be primordial for them.

A mobility chain is efficient when all of its links are connected to each other so that users can have a smooth trip without any obstacles: users go from point A to reach point C. Consequently, point B needs to be able to link A and C together. There can be many possible combinations in just one place. This is particularly striking with multimodal transit hubs such as a bus station with access to bus platforms, train platforms, information desk, city public transport… All the possible destinations need to be taken into account in order for the mobility chain to be covered in full. Every link has a role to play and if there’s one that’s broken, it’s the whole mobility chain that’s paralyzed.

On a larger scale, an optimal mobility chain helps build an inclusive and supportive city. A true challenge for a Smart City that has to welcome everybody including people with disabilities. But cities all over the world keep innovating to provide their citizens with safe and efficient mobility options. This happens to be the case with MaaS, a Finnish mobility transport platform, that facilitates the lives of both users and urban designers.

 

What are the solutions to implement for a seamless mobility chain?

Being a hotel or shop manager, nothing is more rewarding than a satisfied customer. Because obviously, a customer who had a good experience in your establishment is likely to come back and tell others about it. Whatever your establishment may be, public or private, taking into account the needs of your customers or visitors with disabilities will be beneficial for your activity. 

The same applies to cities which are committed in providing their inhabitants and tourists with the best possible experience. Roadways and public transportation have a key role in the image they send back to their users.

The first step consists in checking on the continuity of horizontal and vertical circulations:

⊗ Large doors and pathways;

⊗ Removing steps or offsets;

⊗ Removing upright obstacles;

⊗ Visual and tactile contrasting elements to limit traffic zones;

⊗ Securing stairs;

⊗ Creating alternatives to stairs: ramps or slopes, elevators or escalators.

Here is now a summary of different devices or solutions of equivalent effect that you need to implement to guarantee your users a seamless mobility chain:

For roadways: 

⊗ Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) such as aBeacon designed by French company Okeenea;

⊗ Tactile ground surface indicators (TGSI);

⊗ Guiding paths;

⊗ Visual information for people with a hearing impairment;

⊗ Lowered curbs for wheelchair users.

Accessible Pedestrian Signals, also known as audible signals, still remain the safest way for blind or visually impaired people to cross the road. They can easily be activated on demand with a remote control or a smartphone thanks to MyMoveo app (available on both Android and iOS).

For public transportation (subway, bus, bus and train stations): 

⊗ Audio beacons like NAVIGUEO+ HIFI;

⊗ Secured stairs: handrails and contrasting non-slip stairs;

⊗ Guide paths;

⊗ Visible, readable and easily understandable signage: pictograms and Braille;

⊗ Visual information for people with a hearing impairment; 

⊗ Removable access ramps on buses;

⊗ Indoor wayfinding apps like Evelity: New York City subway chose Okeenea’s app for a test in real conditions. 

To activate audio beacons on demand, people with a visual impairment use the same devices than those used for Accessible Pedestrian Signals. Quite convenient! 

For public venues:

⊗ Parking spaces for people with reduced mobility, including wheelchair users;

⊗ Audio beacons;

⊗ Amplification systems or induction loop systems;

⊗ Secured stairs: handrails and contrasting non-slip stairs;

⊗ Elevators or escalators;

⊗ Visible, readable and easily understandable signage: pictograms and Braille;

⊗ Indoor wayfinding apps like Evelity: Luma Foundation in Arles, France chose Evelity for its visitors.

In a building such as a museum, metres and metres of guide paths can distort the architecture and the design of a place. An innovative solution like Evelity is particularly relevant! It fits in all types of places and buildings and provides a tailor-made experience to its users, whatever their profile may be.

No matter what activity you’re in, the training of your staff happens to be a true asset regarding the satisfaction of people with disabilities’ needs. They could thus benefit from a good experience and would be more likely to come back to your place or use public transport again. 

Setting up these devices, you’ll guarantee your users with disabilities a continuous mobility chain. Being able to get around in a spontaneous, safe and autonomous way makes a difference for people with disabilities!

 

Would you like to know more about accessibility? Find out more articles to learn all the good practices that other cities have already implemented:

How Cities in America Communicate Efficiently about Accessible Pedestrian Signals: Good Examples to Follow

How Can Shopping Malls Be Accessible to People with Disabilities?

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

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

 

 

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People getting around in a subway platform in New York City

A mobility chain is efficient when all of its links are connected to each other so that users can have a smooth trip without any obstacles: users go from point A to reach point C.

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Carole Martinez

Content Manager junior

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5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 Must-Have Apps for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People in 2020  Technological breakthroughs can do miracles. For the 466 million people worldwide having disabling hearing loss (WHO), smartphones have become an essential tool to facilitate social interaction due to...

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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.

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

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

The entrance of a subway station in Madrid

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

Providing a safe and accessible service for all passengers is a major issue for all transit agencies throughout the world. That’s why, when we discovered the brilliant study by the French department’s accessibility branch on subway accessibility in the key cities around the world, it seemed essential to us to share it with you!

It is estimated that 30 to 40% of the population experience difficulties in using public transport. This means that accessibility is not restricted to people with disabilities, and even less to wheelchair users alone, contrary to what The Guardian suggested in its 2017 ranking of the most accessible subway networks. Since then, the French department’s accessibility branch published a study* which examines the accessibility of 42 subway located in 25 countries. This nuanced report discusses the concept of “accessible subway” and highlights the positive initiatives put in place to facilitate access to the subway for all those who encounter mobility limitations. We have produced a summary for you, supplemented with examples from our experience, because yes, we know subway accessibility like the back of our hands!

 

30 to 40% of the population facing barriers in accessing the subway

Taking the subway is more complex than it looks. This implies a chain of actions for which many travelers may encounter brakes or obstacles:

⊗ Preparing your route,

⊗ Obtaining real-time information about the correct functioning of accessibility equipment and any disturbances on the network,

⊗ Locating access to the subway station,

⊗ Going down into the station,

⊗ Obtaining a transport ticket,

⊗ Requesting information or communicating with staff,

⊗ Going through security gates,

⊗ Walking and finding your way inside the station to reach the right platform,

⊗ Waiting in safety until the arrival of the train,

⊗ Getting on board,

⊗ Finding a seat or support bar to maintain balance throughout the trip,

⊗ Getting off at the right station,

⊗ Walking and finding your way inside the station to reach your connection or the desired exit,

⊗ Going through the exit gates and

⊗ Going up towards the road.

Beyond people living with a physical, sensory, mental or psychological disability, many travelers encounter difficulties for one or more stages of the travel chain. According to various studies, they represent 30 to 40% of public transport users. These are the elderly, people with a temporary disability due to injury or illness, pregnant women, obese people, people of small stature, people who are illiterate or do not master the English language, people with young children or even those burdened with packages or luggage.

For more details on the difficulties encountered by subway users according to their disability and the solutions provided by the transit operators, we invite you to read our article:

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

 

An accessible subway, what is it?

The British daily The Guardian published in 2017 the ranking of 7 major subway systems in the world according to their accessibility level. Paris took last place behind Washington DC, Los Angeles, Tokyo, New York City, Barcelona and London. A very severe score for the French capital, which, despite the impossibility of making most of its metro stations accessible to wheelchair users, is doing its best to take into account the other disabilities on the Parisian metro system.

It is from this observation that the French department’s accessibility branch launched a study on the accessibility of 42 subway systems around the world. The data collected is uneven and does not allow for a ranking, which would be senseless. But this study questions the notion of “accessible subway system”.

1st lesson: physical accessibility for people in wheelchairs remains the top achievement for a subway system to claim to be “accessible”. This includes installing elevators, ramps, lowering floors, and reducing or eliminating gaps between trains and platforms. Then come the visual and audio information systems inside the trains which benefit everyone but even more so to people with visual or hearing disabilities. But overall accessibility to all disabilities requires attention to every detail throughout the travel chain. Thus, poorly thought out new equipment risks ruining all the efforts made upstream. 

2nd lesson: other measures exist but they are far from being generalized and little valued on the various communication media of subway systems. Improving visual signage, installing audio beacons, induction loops, accessible vending machines and entry gates, training staff and developing wayfinding applications adapted to different disabilities are just as important for successful accessibility.

 

Inaccessibility is not inevitable

The age of infrastructure is often mentioned to explain its inaccessibility. But the oldest subway systems are not equal in terms of accessibility. It appears that Paris comes bottom of the class with only 9 wheelchair accessible stations out of 303. Older subway systems do much better: London (1863), Boston (1897) or even Athens (1869). Other subway systems inaugurated before 1930 also perform well in terms of accessibility: Berlin (1902), Madrid (1919), Barcelona (1924) and Tokyo (1927). 

Although New York City subway system shows much better performance than the Paris metro, it remains among the lowest percentages of any major transit system in the world. Only 119 of 472 (25%) of all of the subway system’s stations are fully accessible to wheelchair users. In comparison, Boston’s MBTA subway and the Chicago “L”, which are as old or older, have more accessible subway stations. However, 70 more New York City subway stations should be accessible by 2024. This would allow one of every two to four stations on every line to be accessible, so that all non-accessible stops would be a maximum of two stops from an accessible station.

Most of the stations were built before wheelchair access was a requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Since then, elevators have been constructed in new stations and stations that required little modification to meet ADA standards have been upgraded. In addition, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) selected 100 “key stations” to be conformed to ADA requirements when they are being renovated.

According to the MTA’s definition, a fully accessible station must have the following facilities:

⊗ Elevators or ramps,

⊗ Handrails on ramps and stairs,

⊗ Large-print and tactile-braille signs,

⊗ Audio and visual information systems,

⊗ Accessible station booth windows,

⊗ Accessible MetroCard Vending Machines,

⊗ Accessible service entry gates,

⊗ Platform-edge warning strips,

⊗ Platform gap modifications or bridge plates to reduce or eliminate the gap between trains and platforms,

⊗ Telephones at an accessible height with volume control,

⊗ Accessible restrooms at stations with restrooms.

The MTA also provides training to its employees to better assist riders with disabilities. On the other hand, training is delivered to riders with disabilities themselves, their families, and mobility specialists.

 

Original initiatives to include all disabilities

With a few exceptions such as Marseille, Rome or Beijing, subways built after 1970 are generally wheelchair accessible. In most stations, there are elevators, access ramps, widened doors and seats reserved for people with reduced mobility. Obstacles persist to board the trains. Human assistance may be necessary.

Other initiatives are emerging to facilitate travel, orientation and communication for other travelers with disabilities, whether visual, hearing, intellectual, psychological or cognitive. Far from being still generalized, they are nevertheless very interesting sources of inspiration for transit operators.

Adapted materials to plan a route according to one’s disability

Even more than for the general population, planning their itinerary is a crucial step for people with disabilities. Identifying their route and any difficulties, knowing the operating status of access facilities, all this requires appropriate tools. The first step is of course to make all digital media accessible, websites and mobile applications.

Digital Accessibility: Why? For Whom? How?

But paper based materials are not to be neglected. Thus, the London tube provides a collection of maps adapted to different disability situations: large print, tactile, audio, step-free maps and even tunnel maps for claustrophobic people.

In Paris and Toulouse, educational materials have been developed in the form of card games and other fun devices for people with intellectual disabilities to familiarize themselves with the network.

Public Transport: Accessibility Solutions, Also for the Intellectual Disability 

Audio beacons to locate entrances

Audio beacons allow blind or visually impaired people to locate entrances to subway stations thanks to the source of the sound. They are triggered a few meters away using a remote control or a smartphone application. The elevators of the Rennes metro in France have been equipped with audio beacons since it was built in 2002. Today, audio beacons can be found in Paris, Lyon, Prague, Helsinki and perhaps other cities as well.

Tactile guide paths to mark the routes

Guidance or directional tactile paving allows visually impaired people and anyone with orientation difficulties to get from one point to another without deviating. They are found on many subway systems such as Brussels, Berlin, Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Santiago de Chile or Tokyo. To provide effective guidance, these should preferably be coupled with audio signage or a smartphone wayfinding application.

Indoor guidance applications for smartphones

Despite the lack of a GPS signal inside subway stations, wayfinding applications adapted to different disabilities are gradually spreading. They make it possible to calculate a route in a closed area adapted to the various mobility limitations of the users. The Evelity solution is already installed in the Marseille metro.

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

Vending machines adapted to all disabilities

Lowering vending machines so that they can be used by people in wheelchairs or short stature has become the rule on many subway networks. However, these machines often remain inaccessible to blind or visually impaired people, to people who are illiterate or do not speak the language of the country, or even to those with an intellectual disability. Thus, interfaces should be designed with all of these restrictions in mind. Text to speech is an option to be implemented, as in Paris or Barcelona.

Pictures, symbols and pictograms

In order to help people who are illiterate or have an intellectual disability to find their way around, some operators have designed signage which associates a distinct image with each station name. 

This work has already been carried out on the subway networks in Mexico City, Fukuoka in Japan, Recife in Brazil, and Toulouse in France.

Braille signs

International standards for elevators require button marking in Braille and prismatic-numbers, which is very useful for visually impaired people to select their floor. The information in Braille sometimes available on the platforms, as in Washington DC, Chicago or Santiago de Chile, would on the other hand have every interest in being replaced by audio information, much more universal. Indeed, Braille has three major drawbacks:

1. It is difficult to locate for a person who cannot see or has low vision;

2. Serious problems with cleanliness, when touching it, can risk spreading bacteria or viruses such as COVID-19;

3. The proportion of people able to read Braille remains very low.

Audio information addresses all people with visual impairments, but also intellectual or understanding difficulties.

Tactile maps

Tactile maps for the visually impaired can be found on some subway networks such as Paris, Brussels, New York City and Tokyo. For the same reasons as Braille information, these are not very appropriate. On the other hand, tactile maps on paper can be made available to users so that they can consult them in the comfort of their home or the premises of an association. These will allow them to better understand their environment and therefore to find their way more easily.

Staff training to provide adequate assistance

Despite the accessibility improvements, certain situations continue to require human assistance, for example in case of equipment failure or network disruption. This assistance is widely present in London, Paris, Brussels, New York City, or Saint Petersburg. And in order to be able to provide effective assistance, the staff concerned are specifically trained to support people with disabilities.

The French study from the department’s accessibility branch on subway ACCESSIBILITY IN MAJOR WORLDWIDE cities shows us that accessibility has generally improved a lot for people in wheelchairs but is still struggling to become widespread for other disabilities. In addition, access to information on available facilities and suitable route planners is sorely lacking. Hence the interest in surfing open data to develop digital solutions that meet everyone’s specific needs!

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The entrance of a subway station in Paris

The British daily The Guardian published in 2017 the ranking of 7 major subway systems in the world according to their accessibility level. Paris took last place behind Washington DC, Los Angeles, Tokyo, New York City, Barcelona and London.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 Must-Have Apps for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People in 2020  Technological breakthroughs can do miracles. For the 466 million people worldwide having disabling hearing loss (WHO), smartphones have become an essential tool to facilitate social interaction due to...

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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.

13 Must-Have Apps for Blind or Visually Impaired People in 2020

13 Must-Have Apps for Blind or Visually Impaired People in 2020

13 Must-Have Apps for Blind or Visually Impaired People in 2020

 

For blind or visually impaired people, accessing simple information can sometimes be difficult. How can a nonsighted person get their bearings and choose the best route to get to their destination? Or read a document that’s not available in braille? Answer an email from a co-worker? Fortunately, technology keeps innovating and permits to assist people with a visual impairment in their everyday lives.

Indeed, 89% of them have a smartphone, a tool that truly revolutionizes their lives! If they can gain more autonomy today it’s thanks to features that are more advanced and accessible to the general public or thanks to apps that are specially designed for them. Blind or visually impaired people who find it restrictive and stressing to get around can now be more serene!

Let’s explore these apps together!

VoiceOver

VoiceOver is a screen reader that’s integrated into iPhones that, as its name indicates, enunciates emails or other textual messages aloud. It’s up to the user to choose the speaking rate and the volume.

Not to forget that braille also remains an option for those who have a braille keyboard to connect to the smartphone or who just want to write in braille directly on the screen of their iPhone.

VoiceOver also describes all the elements on the screen such as apps icons, the battery level and even in part images thanks to artificial intelligence. All the information is thus accessible!

TalkBack

Android smartphones also have a similar screen reader with TalkBack. It follows the same guideline as for iPhones: reading textual elements aloud, exploring the screen, using braille with BrailleBack… Everything is set for an optimal and smooth navigation!

Siri

Directly integrated into iPhones, Siri is an easy-to-use vocal assistant. For blind or visually impaired people, for whom finding and clicking on the right button can be difficult, using a voice control enables them to save time!

They just need to ask Siri to call a contact, to send a dictated text message and everything is therefore easier!

Google Assistant

Also activated by voice control, Google Assistant has the same functionality as Siri. The user totally controls their smartphone according to their needs: sending an email, setting up an alarm, managing their schedule…

Available on both Android and iOS

Google Maps

It’s one of the most popular GPS navigation apps. Being able to anticipate their route is essential for blind and visually impaired people. And this also applies for other types of profiles in general since people with disabilities use 30% more the GPS on their smartphone than the rest of the population. (Find out all the facts and figures concerning their use of smartphones in our infographic.)

Google Maps enables users to have access to all the real-time traffic information which is ideal when choosing the right means of public transportation!

The app even provides a new feature called “Accessible Places” that enables users to even more apprehend their environment thanks to information concerning the seating plan of a restaurant, the exact location of a building entrance…

A precious help to serenely get around!

Available on both Android and iOS

Moovit

For those who are used to taking public transportation, this app lists all the possible means of transportation, their itineraries, their timetables and other information on real-time traffic.

The app even indicates the users the names of stops while on the bus, the tram or the subway. This proves to be essential for blind or visually impaired people when voice announcements aren’t activated.

Available on both Android and iOS

Microsoft Soundscape

Developed by Microsoft, this app is particularly innovative since it uses audio 3D technology to describe blind or visually impaired people their environment. 

Soundscape enables them to better apprehend their surroundings, to call out intersections and to find their bearings in the city with great facility. And all of that by having their smartphone in their pocket: their hands remain free for their white cane or their guide dog!

Available on iOS

Evelity

Developed by Okeenea Digital, this app is the first indoor wayfinding solution for people with a visual impairment to navigate in complex venues such as museums or universities! It works like a GPS.

Compatible with VoiceOver and TalkBack, Evelity provides audio instructions to users to guide them step by step. People with disabilities can easily find the reception desk or the classroom without needing to know the premises in advance.

Available on both Android and iOS

MyMoveo

We’re once again on the theme of mobility with MyMoveo developed by Okeenea Tech. This app enables blind or visually impaired users to activate connected Accessible Pedestrian Signals aBeacon to know when the pedestrian signal is green and thus safely cross the street.

Users can even use the app to activate the audio beacons NAVIGUEO+ HIFI which can locate points of interest such as the entrances of a public building or a subway station.

Available on both Android and iOS, an update is coming! 

Be My Eyes

An app with which users can ask the help of sighted users in order to match their clothes or to know the expiry date of a product. Thanks to an audio-video connexion, users can easily get in touch. 

Available on both Android and iOS

Aira

Aira works in the same way as Be My Eyes since it connects nonsighted people with sighted ones to help them in various tasks such as finding the gate of an airport.

What sets this app apart is that the sighted users, called agents, are specifically trained to assist blind or visually impaired users referred to as Explorers. 

Although the app can be downloaded for free, users are charged according to the different plans and services Aira provides. Depending on the formula they choose and their needs, the cost can thus be high.

Available on both Android and iOS

Seeing AI

A multipurpose app that permits to read and describe all types of documents placed under the smartphone camera such as banknotes or product barcodes.

Seeing AI even recognizes images, colors and faces and thus gives details on people’s emotions. 

Available on iOS

Lookout

Lookout is the equivalent app of Seeing AI on Android. The user just has to activate their smartphone camera so that Lookout can identify banknotes, objects… Thanks to its Quick Read Mode, the app skims through a text which is ideal when sorting the mail for example.

An app that simplifies the everyday tasks and saves time to its users!

Available on Android

 

We can see that blind or visually impaired people have within their reach numerous apps that improve their autonomy especially concerning their mobility.

If you want to know more about other profiles of people with disabilities and the apps they use in their everyday lives, you can read our articles:

9 Must-Have Apps for People with Physical Disabilities in 2020 

5 Must-Have Apps for Deaf or Hard of Hearing People in 2020

 

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The app Evelity is the first indoor wayfinding solution for people with a visual impairment to navigate in complex venues such as museums or universities! It works like a GPS.

writer

Carole Martinez

Content Manager junior

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

follow us!

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5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 Must-Have Apps for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People in 2020  Technological breakthroughs can do miracles. For the 466 million people worldwide having disabling hearing loss (WHO), smartphones have become an essential tool to facilitate social interaction due to...

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.

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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5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 Must-Have Apps for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People in 2020  Technological breakthroughs can do miracles. For the 466 million people worldwide having disabling hearing loss (WHO), smartphones have become an essential tool to facilitate social interaction due to...

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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.

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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5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 Must-Have Apps for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People in 2020  Technological breakthroughs can do miracles. For the 466 million people worldwide having disabling hearing loss (WHO), smartphones have become an essential tool to facilitate social interaction due to...

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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.

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 must-have apps for deaf and hard of hearing people in 2020

5 Must-Have Apps for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People in 2020  Technological breakthroughs can do miracles. For the 466 million people worldwide having disabling hearing loss (WHO), smartphones have become an essential tool to facilitate social interaction due to...

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

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powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

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

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