• Accessible pedestrian signals: a future application?

  • Anke Bracke

    16 December 2021 at 2:01 pm

    Digital mobility services are more than apps or machines to buy tickets or to rent a car, right? What about pedestrian signals? This too is mobility. Are they accessible for all?

    👉 The answer is no. Let’s switch places and imagine you’re a blind person: what difficulties would you face when trying to cross the road?

    Roughly there are three big challenges:

    The first one is finding the crossroads with the traffic light. There are tactile pavements to indicate the start of a crossing, but not all crossings have one. And if they do, they aren’t always set up in a consistent matter.
    The second one is to know the signal-phase of the traffic light: is it turned green or red? That’s difficult as well because only a minority of traffic lights has a pedestrian signal, because they get installed on demand. And even if there is one, they are not always as reliable. It can happen that they malfunction. In addition they can cause complaints by local residents as well, because of the noise produced. That’s why blind people have to trust on their own hearings to make sure the light is definitely switched to green.
    A third and final issue is to know how the crossing is orientated and to make a good estimate of it. How do you make sure you cross in a straight line? It’s hard to stay on the crossing when you have no visibility.

    In Flanders, they are working on a tailor-made solution for blind and visually impaired people to tackle these challenges. It’s a mobile application that will provide audible notifications and directions at intersections with intelligent traffic light controllers to make traffic more accessible for blind and visually impaired people.

    Curious to find out more? Keep reading or get in touch with them: https://mobilidata.be/en/blog/accessible-pedestrian-signals-a-future-application

    Is your city or region tackling these types of challenges? And if yes, how so? Drop your thoughts below. 👇

  • Joy Deane

    20 January 2022 at 2:57 pm

    This looks like really interesting work.

    I also only found out a few years ago about an accessibility feature that helps with the second issue. It’s built into many signalled pedestrian crossings (at least in the UK). If you put your hand under the control box (the box with the button to press to indicate that you want to cross), there is a little cone with tactile ridges. It starts spinning when the green man shows, and stops when it’s the red man. It’s great for situations where noise can’t be used (e.g. because 2 crossings are too close together or because the noise bothers the neighbours). Here’s a BBC article about it: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-ouch-22706881

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