The Future of Mass Transit and Detectable Warnings20 March 2018
Most people would agree we all have the right to get out and about. For obvious reasons, this is a bit more difficult for individuals with low or no vision. That said, it is completely possible for a blind person to navigate their way around a city and thanks to ever-improving ADA requirements, this is becoming easier and easier for them to do.
One of the most efficient means of getting around a bigger city is through the use of mass transit. As such, large numbers of people use these facilities day-in and day-out. Clearly, we want to ensure mass transit is as safe as possible for all passengers, and one of the best ways to do this is to install detectable warnings on the ground and floors. These warn blind and low-vision passengers – as well as passengers who simply may not be paying attention – of potential dangers through the use of raised bumps that can be felt through the sole of a shoe.
Relatively recently, these detectable warnings were made a legal requirement on all rail platform edges as well as many other potentially hazardous places. This has been a tremendous improvement for many with low or no vision. It has been especially helpful at platform drop-offs, where several blind individuals have had terrible accidents in the past.
Still, even with these improvements, US cities can (and likely will) continue to improve public transportation accessibility for the blind. Below are some of the improvements we hope to see in the future.
All materials used for detectable warnings must be approved by the ADA. However, this doesn’t mean all materials are created equal. In fact, some materials have been proven to offer better resilience than others. Moreover, developers are always working to discover better materials for this purpose.
We hope that we will see more durable, slip-resistant, and easily detectable options replace their less effective counterparts in the near future.
Directional Tactile Paving
In California, as well as some foreign countries, directional tactile paving is required by law in certain areas. This surface differs from the more common truncated dome surfaces that are required in all states. While it does include a raised pattern, this pattern is composed of elongated ovals rather than domes. The ovals serve to let passengers know which direction they should be headed.
In California, this directional paving is used on rail platforms. It’s installed behind the usual truncated dome warning and indicates where a passenger can expect to find a train door. Obviously, this is quite useful for those who wish to board the train.
Detectable Warnings at Bus Stops
In parts of the UK, special curbs with detectable warnings are required at bus stops in order to prevent users from walking off the edge of the curb when making their way to the bus. These are especially helpful if a person happens to be unfamiliar with a particular area. Not only does this improve the experience of blind and low-vision passengers, it can also help ensure buses run more efficiently by ensuring more riders are able to board quickly and without assistance.
Unfortunately, these special curbs are not a legal requirement here in the U.S. However, we hope lawmakers will see the need for this helpful addition in the near future, making buses more accessible for all people.
We’ve truly come a long way in making our cities navigable for those with vision impairments. Surely the future will be even more exciting, and we can’t wait to find out what’s just around the corner.