PedSafety Guardian APS device on pole

 

Introduction

Almost 20 million Americans, roughly 8 percent of the United States population, have visual impairments. Impaired vision can range anywhere from poor vision to complete blindness. People with visual impairments have difficulty with routine tasks, including crossing the street. Accessible Pedestrian Push Buttons or Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) are devices that offer nonvisual formats of intersection phase information for the visually impaired. They provide information such as pushbutton existence and location, walk interval, crosswalk direction, intersection name in Braille, and intersection signalization with a speech message. These forms of information provide inclusivity and accessibility for all pedestrians.

 

Audible Indications

An accessible pedestrian push button makes a continuous beeping sound, this is called a locator tone. It helps lead visually impaired pedestrians to the pedestrian crossing area. A momentary press, which is your typical button press of less than a second, will give acknowledgment with a “Wait” message. An extended press of greater than 1 second, will prompt the device to give a location message of “Wait to cross” or “Wait to cross intersection street names]”. Once the crossing status changes the device message “Walk sign is on” or “Walk sign is on to cross intersection street  This is the MUTCD standard (Section 4E.11). In cases when two buttons are further than 10 feet apart on the same corner, audible tones maybe be used in place of the “Walk” message.

 

Raised Arrow

The arrow is raised so the direction of the crosswalk can be felt by a pedestrian. The arrow is designed to be pointed at the beginning of the crosswalk the pedestrian intends to cross. This is the MUTCD standard (Section 4E.12). Arrows should also have good visual contrast from their background so all pedestrians, including those with low vision, can readily see them.

 

Vibration

The tactile arrow on an APS device vibrates rapidly during the walk interval. This is the MUTCD standard (. You must have your hand on the arrow to feel the vibrations. For this to be the most useful, the device must be installed where a pedestrian can stand with one hand on the arrow positioned to begin crossing. Vibrotactile walk indications help pedestrians with hearing and vision impairments.

 

Step-by-Step Instructions For Crossing

Now that you understand the ins and outs of the device, here are some general steps for using an accessible pedestrian push button.

  1. Locate the accessible push button at a crosswalk or intersection. These are usually positioned 3.5 ft above the sidewalk on a pole. For the visually impaired or blind, use the locator tone to find the device.
  2. Identify any tactile indicators that may be present on the push button. This could be a raised arrow or braille push button instructions signs. Remember the direction of the raised arrow indicates the crosswalk direction.
  3. Press the accessible pedestrian push button firmly but gently. Apply enough pressure to activate the button, you should hear “Wait” or a percussive tone indicating button press acknowledgment. Hold the button for an additional second if you need an audible indication message such as “Wait to cross” or “Wait to cross [street intersection]”.
  4. After pressing the button listen or feel for signals indicating the cross signal has been activated. This may include an audible walk signal or a tactile vibration of the arrow.
  5. When the pedestrian signal indicates the walk signal is on, proceed cautiously to cross the street.

Be careful when traveling as a pedestrian. Do not solely trust the walk signal. The walk signal does not indicate it is safe to cross, merely that it is legal to cross. Be sure to always look both ways or listen for oncoming traffic before crossing.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the implementation of Accessible Pedestrian Push Buttons or Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) represents a crucial step toward fostering inclusivity and accessibility for the visually impaired in pedestrian environments. With approximately 20 million Americans facing visual impairments, these devices play a vital role in facilitating their safe navigation through routine tasks, including crossing streets. The combination of audible indications, raised arrows, vibration, and step-by-step instructions provides a comprehensive system that addresses the diverse needs of individuals with visual and hearing impairments.

The audible indications, including locator tones and specific messages, guide visually impaired pedestrians to the crossing area and provide essential information about the intersection phase. Raised arrows, designed to be felt by pedestrians, enhance the understanding of the crosswalk direction, while vibration during the walk interval further aids those with hearing and vision impairments. These features adhere to established standards, such as those outlined in the MUTCD, ensuring a consistent and reliable experience for users.

The step-by-step instructions outlined for using an accessible pedestrian push button emphasize the importance of tactile indicators, button activation, and vigilance when interpreting walk signals. It is crucial for pedestrians, regardless of visual abilities, to exercise caution and verify the safety of the crossing independently.

In essence, Accessible Pedestrian Push Buttons contribute significantly to creating a more inclusive and safer pedestrian environment for all individuals, regardless of their visual or hearing abilities. As we move forward, continued attention to the implementation and improvement of such accessibility features will undoubtedly enhance the overall quality of life for those with visual impairments, fostering a more inclusive and equitable society.