HSRC Directions
Summer 08
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HSRC completes best practices for installation of accessible pedestrian signals

There are a variety of challenges and considerations to keep in mind while designing intersections that can properly accommodate all types of pedestrians. Cities and towns are consistently addressing the question of how to accommodate pedestrians with disabilities, particularly those who are hearing or visually impaired.

accessible pedestrian signal

With funding from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, HSRC began collecting data in 2001 in an effort to determine the best uses for accessible pedestrian signals, or APS, which provide audible and tactile street-crossing information to blind or low-vision pedestrians. As a result of the study's final report, HSRC and subcontractor Accessible Design for the Blind were tasked with writing a guide that would include best practices in the use of APS.

The recent completion of Accessible Pedestrian Signals: A Guide to Best Practice provides training information on when, where, and how to install accessible pedestrian signals. The guidelines explain how APS provide optimal information through media such as tones and tactile or verbal indicators, and under what circumstances their installation is recommended. The Guide is designed to serve as a companion resource document to a one-day training course on accessible pedestrian signals. The training materials are intended to facilitate application of the guidelines and installation and operation of APS. This training is oriented toward technical issues and public education.

"The training component is a very important element to the proper use and installation of APS," said Daniel Carter, Engineering Research Associate at HSRC. "We have spent years compiling data for this project and being able to take this information to local towns and cities will allow municipalities to significantly increase intersection safety for blind and low-vision pedestrians.

Workshops will be conducted over the course of the next year and are intended to disseminate updated APS information to:

  • engineers and administrators who may be responsible for making decisions about APS installations,
  • signal technicians who are charged with installation and maintenance of the devices, and
  • orientation and mobility professionals who make requests for APS devices on behalf of their clients and train their clients on the use of APS.

The guidance provided in the workshops will also be incorporated into the Public Rights-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines and the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and will likely lead to an increase in the use of APS as well as improvements in the installation and operation.

To view the NCHRP final report, which documents the research conducted in this study, please visit http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_w117b.pdf.

To view a copy of Accessible Pedestrian Signals: A Guide to Best Practices, please visit http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_w117a.pdf.

If you would like more information regarding the Accessible Pedestrian Signals project, please visit http://www.walkinginfo.org/aps/home.cfm, or contact Daniel Carter at 919-962-8720 or daniel_carter@unc.edu.

The University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center
730 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Suite 300  |  Campus Box 3430  |  Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3430
Phone: 919.962.2203  |  Fax: 919.962.8710