Need for education

New types of APS

Many people in the U.S. have had no experience with new types of APS. It is important that pedestrians who are blind and sighted have some understanding of the functioning of APS and the various features of the APS installed. In particular, it is important that pedestrians know and understand the difference between the pushbutton locator tone and the WALK indication.

Neighbors may be more supportive if aware of the need

Individuals who live close to newly-installed APS may not be aware of the usefulness of APS for pedestrians who are visually impaired or elderly. Publicity about the APS in advance and preparation for their installation may result in more neighborhood acceptance. Many individuals are not familiar with pushbutton locator tones and may need an explanation of their use by pedestrians who are blind or who have low vision.

Education needs documented by research project

Research completed as part of NCHRP Project 3-62 indicated that education is needed for blind pedestrians to understand pushbutton locator tones, response to ambient sound, and WALK indications.

Some participants thought that the increase in volume of the locator tone, in response to ambient sound, was a new kind of WALK indication.

In addition, most participants were unfamiliar with the need to use pushbuttons. Most pedestrians who were blind who participated in the research stated that they did not use pushbuttons, unless they knew the pushbuttons were present and knew where they were located. They were unclear on the purpose or function of the pedestrian pushbuttons. Pushbutton locator tones should provide more information, but all pedestrians seem to need more education about pushbuttons and their use and function.

MUTCD 4E.08, in 2000, provided more specific location guidance for APS pushbuttons, but it is important that pedestrians who are blind understand the placement of APS. In addition, it was noted that many blind pedestrians were unfamiliar with arrows and were unable to immediately determine which direction the tactile arrow was pointing. Actual hands-on explanation of the APS and pushbuttons can be helpful.

Providing information to the public

Radio, TV and newspaper publicity

It is common for information to be distributed through radio and TV publicity. This information may reach many people, including those who are blind or who have low vision. Newspaper articles, however, may not reach individuals who are blind or visually impaired, particularly those in the growing elderly blind population.

Radio Reading Services

Radio reading services function in many cities and provide free spots and informational programs aimed at individuals who are blind or who have low vision. Radio Reading Services broadcast the reading of newspapers and books and magazines to the blind, physically impaired and those who have difficulty reading small print. Due to copyright law, Reading Service radio broadcasts are restricted to a closed channel unavailable to the general public. Listeners usually hear the service only by ordering a special 'sub-channel' radio, through special cable service, or through a subscription webstream service.

The radio reading service serving a specific area can usually be located through an internet or phone book search.

Rehabilitation Centers

Rehabilitation centers providing services to individuals who are blind or who have low vision are located in many cities. These centers may have telephone or email based bulletin boards providing news of interest to individuals who are blind. Usually posting information or notices is free. Centers may also provide meeting space or facilitate regular support group meetings.

Consumer groups

There are two main consumer groups of individuals who are blind and who have low vision, American Council of the Blind and National Federation of the Blind. Each organization has affiliate groups and local chapters that usually meet monthly. Speaking to a group meeting is an excellent way to reach a number of individuals who are blind or who have low vision. Information about local chapters and contact information for each chapter is available from the national office and is usually listed on the national organization web pages: and

Neighborhood meetings, business association meetings, social service clubs, etc.

Offering to provide information and speakers to various community organizations ranging from PTA meetings to business association meetings can be another avenue to provide education to individuals in the community where APS are being installed. You will often find individuals who are blind or who have low vision within these groups as well.

One page flyer about APS installation

Public agencies may find it useful to distribute flyers to inform the public about APS. The following sections list important things to include on the flyer and suggested text for each topic. Notes in italics are for the flyer designer and should not be included on the flyer.

New Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) are being installed at [list intersections]

Insert example photo of an APS of the type being installed.

These APS signals provide audible and vibrotactile WALK indications to help people who have trouble seeing the pedestrian signal. The sounds come from the pushbutton and automatically adjust to ambient sound so they will be louder when the traffic is loud and quieter when traffic is quiet. Audible and vibrotactile WALK indication tell a visually impaired pedestrian that the WALK signal is on, but it is still important that they check traffic to be sure that cars are not running the red light or turning across the crosswalk.

Each APS has the following features:

  • Pushbutton locator tone — tone that constantly repeats once per second from each pushbutton. Helps people who are blind or who have low vision find the pushbutton.
  • Audible and vibrotactile WALK indications — sound and vibration during the WALK signal

    Insert applicable WALK indication description:

    • Rapid tick WALK indication — rapidly repeating tick from the pushbutton location to indicate that the WALK signal is on.
    • Speech WALK message — name of the street to be crossed, then "walk sign is on to cross and the street name again. For example, "Haywood, Walk sign is on to cross Haywood."
  • A tactile arrow on the pushbutton, or above the pushbutton, points in the direction of travel on the crosswalk. The arrow vibrates during the WALK signal.
  • Actuation indicator — a tone, a click, or a spoken "wait" when the pushbutton is pushed to indicate that the button has been pushed
  • Braille street name — street name that the pushbutton controls is on the plate above the pushbutton in braille

If optional features are installed, add the applicable text below

  • Optional features when you hold the pushbutton in for more than a second
    • Pushbutton information message — name the street that the pushbutton controls and the other streets at the intersection. Example: "Wait to cross Vermont at Haywood."
    • Audible beaconing — Volume of locator tone is boosted during the flashing DONT WALK interval to allow a person who is blind to home in on the opposite corner of the street

Provide contact information for questions or concerns

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