APS utilization techniques for blind pedestrians
The following section is adapted from Crossroads: Modern Interactive Intersections and Accessible Pedestrian Signals (Barlow & Franck, 2005).
It is particularly important to recognize that the APS information is supplemental to traffic and environmental cues, and only provides information about the status of the signal. The APS WALK indication indicates that the WALK signal is on, not that it is safe to cross. Cars can still be turning across the crosswalk or running a red light. The APS WALK sound can be compared to the "on your mark" instruction at the beginning of a race. Though it means that the signal has changed, it is still important to "get set" (assess the traffic), then "go" (begin to cross).
Suggested techniques in using APS
The only place in the O&M literature where specific techniques are suggested for crossing at intersections using APS is a section in a curriculum on APS, developed for Easter Seals Project ACTION (2003). Based on the experience of the authors and the Project ACTION curriculum, the following techniques are suggested:
- Approach intersection and stop at curb or curb ramp/street edge, maintaining initial alignment; check alignment for crossing by listening to traffic. Even if a pushbutton locator tone is noticed during approach, continue to the curb or edge of street first.
- Determine starting location for crossing, and identify tactile cues to use to realign after pressing the pushbutton, because after pushing the button, there may be no time to listen to parallel traffic and realign before the next WALK signal.
- Listen and evaluate the intersection. Determine traffic patterns and intersection geometry and listen for a pushbutton locator tone, or a tone or speech WALK indication. (important that students/clients understand and can recognize the difference between a pushbutton locator tone and typical WALK indications)
- Search for a pushbutton using a systematic pattern. Even where there is a pushbutton locator tone, a systematic search pattern is needed to maintain orientation. Because dog guides are trained to avoid obstacles they may be reluctant to approach poles supporting pedestrian pushbuttons. It may be more efficient for the handler to use a cane to search initially before teaching the dog to locate the pole.
- Once the APS is located, explore the device and its functioning, including locating the tactile arrow to confirm that the arrow is pointing in the direction of the street being crossed.
- Hold the pushbutton down for more than three seconds, and see if more information is provided.
- Listen to APS and traffic for full cycle to make sure that tones or speech correspond with traffic information.
- Press button and return to predetermined spot at the curb, realign and prepare to cross.
- When WALK indication is heard, confirm that traffic on perpendicular street is stopping or stopped, and listen for initial parallel traffic movements when available. Traffic may still be legally clearing the crosswalk when the WALK begins, so careful listening is important.
- Cross the street using typical alignment techniques (traffic, straight line travel, etc) while continuing to listen for turning cars. In many cases, cars can turn right and left across the crosswalk during the pedestrian phase. Although drivers are supposed to yield to pedestrians, they often do not.
- Be aware that a locator tone on the destination curb may provide additional wayfinding information.
- Continue to be vigilant of traffic even though the WALK indication is on.
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