Electronic Toolbox for Making Intersections More Accessible for Pedestrians Who are Blind or Visually Impaired

In 1997, ITE's Traffic Engineering Council formed the Committee on Accessible Intersections for Pedestrians who are Blind or Visually Impaired (TENC-97-09). The Committee includes ITE members and representatives of advocacy and professional organizations active in the blindness field. The Committee is Chaired by Herman F. Huang of Sprinkle Consulting, Inc. The objective of the Committee is to identify the characteristics of an "accessible intersection," produce a toolbox for making intersections more accessible, and to identify research needs for the tools discussed in the toolbox to form the basis for a future recommended practice.

The Electronic Toolbox for Making Intersections More Accessible for Pedestrians Who are Blind or Visually Impaired includes information either developed by the Committee or identified by the Committee as useful to creating intersections that are more accessible to pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired. The Committee remains active and will add information to this toolbox as it is developed or identified.


Definition of an Accessible Intersection

An accessible intersection is a street crossing that is usable by pedestrians who have mobility, cognitive, and/or sensory impairments. Intersection accessibility can be evaluated in a new or altered facility by a comparison to accessibility standards for new construction and alterations promulgated under several Federal statutes or adopted by a State or local government The ADA permits existing pedestrian facilities to be measured more flexibly, as part of an overall pedestrian circulation program that may not achieve individual facility or feature compliance but can provide general pedestrian access to locations served by the pedestrian circulation system.

Standards implemented under the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) of 1968, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (often referred to as ‘504’)and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 include scoping and technical provisions for newly constructed and altered pedestrian walkways. They include criteria for protruding objects, surfaces, ramps and curb ramps, and parking that can be broadly applied to the public right-of-way. Recommendations published in January 2001 by the Public Rights-of-Way Access Advisory Committee (PROWAAC) will be developed into to new guidelines specific to public sidewalks, street crossings, and related pedestrian facilities by the U.S. Access Board in 2002. PROWAAC recommendations refine current guidelines for application to the public right-of-way and suggest new signaling, information, and wayfinding provisions for pedestrians who have vision impairments.


Potential Funding Sources for Making an Intersection Accessible

The combined funding of Federal, State and local government on surface transportation is one of this county’s largest domestic spending programs. The funding for pedestrian issues has increased dramatically since 1991. This increase was spurred by transportation legislation, grassroots support, and accessibility policies. Pedestrian projects and programs are eligible for funding in almost every major Federal-aid surface transportation category. Transportation legislation, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991 and the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) of 1998, call for mainstreaming pedestrian (and bicycle) projects into planning, design, and operation of our Nation’s transportation system.




Public Rights-of-Way Access Advisory Committee Special Report: Accessible Public Rights-of-Way Planning and Designing for Alterations

Flexible Funding for Highways, Transit, and Pedestrian and Bicycle Activities (2/10/03)


Accessible Pedestrian Signal Features - New Possibilities for Access in the US

This audiovisual slide show describes features of accessible pedestrian signals (APS). It contains photos of actual APS installations. On several slides, you can click on the slide to hear locator tones, walk signal tones, or speech messages. One slide shows a device that includes a tactile crosswalk map. Guidelines on push button location and audible beaconing are summarized.


Determining Recommended Language for Speech Messages used by Accessible Pedestrian Signals

The objective of the research in this report was to develop recommendations for the structure and content of walk messages and pushbutton messages for directly audible APSs. An Expert Panel of stakeholders created a survey with questions on preferences for APS speech message structure and wording. Pedestrians with visual impairments, orientation and mobility specialists, transportation engineers, and APS manufacturers all participated in this survey. The survey also contained items to evaluate the understanding of various message types by respondent groups, and preferences for use of a pushbutton delay feature to actuate pushbutton messages. The Expert Panel developed a series of recommended walk messages and pushbutton messages based on their own expertise and the survey results. These are presented at the end of the report.


Addressing Barriers to Blind Pedestrians at Signalized Intersections (9/00)

An ITE Journal article presents the results of a survey of Orientation and Mobility Specialists regarding the problems students with visual impairments experience at signalized intersections. Orientation and Mobility Specialists are individuals who are professionally trained to teach people who are blind or visually impaired to travel independently. In the practice of their profession, they regularly provide instruction in crossing streets at signalized intersections.


American Council of the Blind Survey of Signalized Intersection Accessibility

The American Council of the Blind (ACB) surveyed 158 pedestrians who are legally blind regarding their experiences in independently crossing at intersections with and without audible signals.

  • 91% of respondents indicated that they sometimes had difficulty knowing when to begin crossing (difficulty hearing surge of traffic on street beside them), which they attributed to one or more of four reasons.
  • 79% of respondents indicated that they sometimes had difficulty traveling straight across the street, for one or more of the following three reasons.
  • 90% of respondents had experienced one or more of the following problems with push buttons.
  • 71% of respondents had experienced one or more of the following eight difficulties with existing accessible pedestrian signal


Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access, Part I, A Review of Existing Guidelines and
Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access, Part II, Best Practices Guide

In an effort to determine when Americans with Disabilities Act Accessible Guidelines (ADAAG) provisions apply to sidewalks and trails, and to bridge the remaining gaps, the Federal Highway Administration sponsored a project to research existing conditions on sidewalks and trails for people with disabilities. Part I covers:

  • Factors that affect the accessibility of sidewalks and trails in the United States
  • The history of accessibility legislation and an overview of current accessibility laws
  • The travel characteristics of people with disabilities, children, and older adults in relation to their use of sidewalks and trails
  • The effects of current legislation pertaining to sidewalk and trail project planning and funding
  • Current design practices used in the design of sidewalks and trails in terms of accessibility, engineering, and construction

Part II is a practical tool for planning, designing, and constructing sidewalks and trails. It offers a step-by-step approach to creating usable pedestrian facilities, and takes into account the needs of all users. It covers:

  • Performance measures for creating and environment that is usable for all
  • How to assess the conditions of the existing pedestrian network for accessibility
  • Setting priorities and maximizing resources
  • Curb ramp design and application issues
  • Applying geometric design to the pedestrian network


Accessible Pedestrian Signals - Synthesis and Guide to Best Practice

This online guide is an interim product for NCHRP Project 3-62, Guidelines for Accessible Pedestrian Signals, which is being carried out under a contract with The University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center under the direction of David L. Harkey (Principal Investigator). It provides background information on how pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired cross streets, and how Accessible Pedestrian Signals assist this process.


Access Board

The Access Board is an independent Federal agency devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities. It operates with about 30 staff and a governing board of representatives from Federal departments and public members appointed by the President. Key responsibilities of the Board include:

  • developing and maintaining accessibility requirements for the built environment, transit vehicles, telecommunications equipment, and for electronic and information technology
  • providing technical assistance and training on these guidelines and standards
  • enforcing accessibility standards for federally funded facilities


Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) Part 4 Highway Traffic Signals

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, or MUTCD defines the standards used by road managers nationwide to install and maintain traffic control devices on all streets and highways. The MUTCD is published by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) under 23 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 655, Subpart F. 

Part 4, Section 4E.06 provides guidance, standards and support for the use of Accessible Pedestrian Signals. Section 4E.07 provides guidance, standards and support for the use of Pedestrian Detectors. Section 4E.08 provides guidance, standards and support for the use of Accessible Pedestrian Signals Detectors.