Pedestrian Safety Handbook


In February of 1999, the American Council of the Blind (ACB) published our first Pedestrian Safety handbook. In response to an urgent need expressed by many blind and visually impaired people, We wanted to inform our members, their families, and others who care about people with disabilities about contemporary approaches to assuring safe paths of travel for blind pedestrians and effective ways to advocate for accommodations like accessible pedestrian signals, tactual warnings at the edges of curb ramps, and mechanisms for routing travelers safely through problematic situations which were daily compromising the safety and self confidence of people who rely on white mobility canes, guide dogs, and orientation and mobility methodologies to accomplish the tasks of daily life. The next year, ACB updated the handbook to make it more comprehensive. We included new research-based information about complicated intersections, personal accounts telling how people who were blind and visually impaired had conquered the problematic paths of travel in their home environments, and specific regulations that advocates could use to support their requests for environmental modifications that would make them safer.

We have been gratified to learn how many advocates have found our pedestrian safety publications helpful during the past dozen years. Many blind and visually impaired Americans have turned to our accessible handbooks for help finding answers to questions about complex intersections and accessible pedestrian signals, and our pedestrian safety handbooks have also provided guidance to certified orientation and mobility specialists (COMS) and other blindness professional service providers, local officials working to make their community streets and intersections efficient and safe, and traffic engineers who know everything there is to know about moving traffic efficiently through complicated intersections but who often know little about the needs of blind and visually impaired pedestrians or how we navigate across streets and along the edges of roads and highways.

More than a decade after our first pedestrian safety handbook went to press, we find that the need for current information about pedestrian safety is as great, or perhaps even greater, than it was when we first embarked on the project. During ensuing years, intersections have become more complex, roundabouts have proliferated, the demands of drivers for expedited travel have become more insistent, and quiet cars are multiplying. Meanwhile, many blind and visually impaired people have advocated successfully for installation of accessible pedestrian signals, lengthened pedestrian cycles, tactile warnings on curb ramps, and other environmental modifications from which we all benefit. In many instances the Federal Transit Administration has supported our demands for safe and accessible intersections and sidewalks, and the U. S. ACCESS Board is, as we go to press, in the process of revising regulations that will guide traffic engineers and community planners toward making more pedestrian rights of way safer for more of us who cope with blindness, visual impairments and other disabilities.

Realizing that there are stories which need sharing, regulations which need explanation, new O&M research findings that require discussion and dissemination, and advocates who need encouragement, and that few, if any of us feel particularly safe, when we stop to think about it, when we are trying to decide when to step off the curb and walk quickly across lanes of traffic, the ACB Environmental Access Committee knows that the time has come to update our pedestrian safety handbook.

Thinking about the many changes that have occurred with respect to traffic and intersections, with vehicles (Who would have thought ten years ago that a car engine could be running not two feet away from a person who cannot see it, and that person would not be able to use his or her hearing to even know it is there?), with respect to federal, state and local budgets, and with automation and technology, the Environmental Access Committee concludes that publishing a handbook every decade or so cannot possibly keep up with the need for information that our community will continue to experience. The solution to the problem of a publication that is "behind the times" almost as soon as it comes off the presses is to create a living document, and that is what this edition of the ACB Pedestrian Safety Handbook aims to become. Because we can create an online publication that is accessible to every blind and visually impaired person who can access the internet, because we can categorize the information we share in ways that can meet the specific needs of blind pedestrians, advocates, orientation and mobility service providers, traffic engineers, and community planners, and because we can update that information to keep it current, we believe that our living, evolving online document will be even more useful to its readers than earlier editions were. Certainly blind and visually impaired people can download any and all of the "chapters" in the formats that are most useful to them, and print out the pages in braille, or large print, as they wish. We encourage local chapters and ACB affiliates to assist their members who may not yet be all that computer literate with these tasks. However, we believe that making this handbook as current and timely as possible will benefit the blindness community greatly, and that is why we have chosen to publish the handbook online.

Pedestrian safety for people who are blind and visually impaired will remain a crucially important mission for ACB's Environmental Access Committee, for all of the experts who have so generously shared their knowledge and advice in the pages of this publication, and for everyone who is blind or visually impaired who values independence and personal safety, as well as families, friends, and service providers who care about people who are blind. We urge you to become familiar with the regulations that facilitate your ability to travel safely through the built environment. We urge you to take inspiration and learn the "how-tos" from the people whose case studies we can share in this publication. We urge every one of you to learn from the sections that detail the problems associated with crossing specific kinds of intersections, to apply the research findings contained therein to your own travel style and travel skills, and to share what you learn with others whom you know who are blind or visually impaired. Every time we hear on the radio or read in the news about a pedestrian accident, we hold our collective breath and hope that the accident hasn't taken someone's life and that, this time, the accident hasn't befallen a friend or colleague or acquaintance who is blind. The day has not yet come when we cease to worry about our blind and visually impaired friends, or about ourselves, when we take cane or harness in hand and venture out to travel through our communities. We hope, though, that this publication will allow all of us to breathe a little easier.

-- Debbie Grubb


As Project Leader for the preparation of the living document that is the web based American Council of the Blind (ACB) Pedestrian Safety Handbook, it is my honor and privilege to acknowledge the significant contributions to this Handbook by talented men and women with a lifelong commitment to and expertise in the fields of environmental access for people who are blind and visually impaired and orientation and mobility training to insure that we have mastery of the best techniques to move safely and independently throughout our environment.

This ever evolving work is dedicated to the memory of Patricia Beattie who worked tirelessly as long time Chair of the ACB Environmental Access Committee and during her career with National Industries for the Blind to insure that our right to access the environment of our country was protected, understood and appropriately accommodated.

Those who have contributed to the handbook gave their best in order to enable us to advocate for pedestrian access where we live, work and play. They have created a toolbox full of the most accurate and current information and resources. Because this handbook is a living, evolving document, this toolbox will always be one that we can turn to as we educate about and advocate for our civil right as blind pedestrians to access our environment.

I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge my first partner and colleague in the creation of the first edition of the ACB Pedestrian Safety Handbook, Charlie Crawford, who, as Executive Director of ACB in the late 1990's, immediately bought into the idea of the handbook when I first presented it to the ACB Board as little more than a vision. Charlie spent time helping me to flesh out my vision and wrote an impassioned introduction. He led me to wonderful resources and introduced me to experts in the field, all of whom have contributed to this incarnation of the handbook.

I wish to convey my deep gratitude to the authors who care so deeply and who know so much:

Janet M. Barlow, COMS
Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist
Accessible Design for the Blind

Billie Louise (Beezy) Bentzen, COMS
Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist
Accessible Design for the Blind

Lukas Franck COMS, GDMI
Senior Special Projects Consultant
The Seeing Eye

Gene Lozano
Founder and first chair of the ACB Environmental Access Committee

Dona Sauerburger, COMS
Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist

Lois Thibault
Coordinator of Research (Retired)
US Access Board,

Each of these phenomenal individuals not only wrote the chapters that are credited to them in the Handbook, they spent a great deal of time assisting with the plan and scope of this project.

As Lois was carrying out her last responsibilities at the Access Board before her well deserved retirement, she joined the project team not a moment too soon. Lois brought her understanding of the issues, clarity of thought and excellent writing ability to the project as she collaborated on the chapters and submitted valuable information for which she is credited in the Handbook.

I gratefully acknowledge the ongoing commitment of ACB President, Mitch Pomerantz, to this project and his contribution to it.

Members of the ACB Environmental Access Committee who assisted with the project are: Gene Lozano, Kathy Lyons and Pat Sheehan,

Each person who contributed to this endeavor can be justifiably proud of the outcome and the ongoing impact that it will have as together we advocate for meaningful and comprehensive environmental access throughout this country.

The Editors of the ACB Pedestrian Safety Handbook are Gene Lozano, Founder and first chair of the ACB Environmental Access Committee, and Penny Reeder, whose multifaceted career has provided her with much editing experience.

Gene somehow found the time and the heart to do whatever I asked of him, often carrying the project by himself until I could find my feet. Besides undertaking the roles of author and collaborator, Gene checked and rechecked every chapter and reference for accuracy and spent hours insuring that each chapter achieved what we had planned for it.

Penny Reeder joined the project team because she is a good friend and because I asked her to. Penny's editing skill and passion for the content and intent of the handbook gave us the final push we needed to get the project across the finish line.

How can each of us truly thank the amazing individuals who have been acknowledged here? We can take the steps, often small steps, one at a time, to make the environment in our own corner of this country truly accessible. Let's get out there and do it!


Debbie Grubb
ACB Pedestrian Safety Handbook Project Leader
Chair, ACB Environmental Access Committee

Mitch's Message

In 2000, the American Council of the Blind published our "Pedestrian Safety Handbook.," That landmark publication represented our effort to gather together the most current information then available about pedestrian safety solutions for people who were blind and visually impaired. Our goal was to provide up-to-date information that our members could use to advocate for safer streets and intersections in their communities. Much has changed over the intervening years, especially with the advent of hybrid and quiet vehicles and the proliferation of traffic calming methodologies in virtually every community throughout the country.

As a professional working in the area of ADA compliance, I know, first-hand, that we will see significant positive change for the better on our streets and in our intersections only by advocating for our own civil right to travel through the built environment safely.

In July 2005, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), issued a letter (Appendix A) in response to a complaint filed against the State of Maryland, by the American Council of the Blind of Maryland for failing to install accessible pedestrian signals (APS) at certain intersections - in which it stated unequivocally that "...the lack of accessibility for blind pedestrians is a violation of the ADA." This letter should serve as a clear signal to all blind and visually impaired people that we have the law on our side, and that it is long past time for us to pressure officials in transportation departments on the local, county and state levels to address our accessibility concerns as they have heretofore addressed those of persons who use wheelchairs. Installation of APS should have the same priority as installation of curb ramps. This third edition of ACB's "Pedestrian Safety Handbook" will give everyone reading it the tools necessary to raise the awareness of such officials and to help make those advocacy efforts successful.

Mitch Pomerantz, President
American Council of the Blind


Lois Thibault
Coordinator of Research (Retired)
U.D. Access Board

Dona Sauerburger, COMS
Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist

Gene Lozano
Founder and First Chair
ACB Environmental Access Committee

We present this chapter as a resource for obtaining guidance about solving problems and advocating for your safety as a pedestrian who is blind or visually impaired. For example, perhaps there are streets where you are unable to figure out when to initiate a street crossing or even where the edge of the sidewalk ends and the street begins. The first step toward finding a solution is to identify the specific problem you are having. Then, you can refer to the specific chapters in this handbook that can help you address the safety issues you must confront, and advocate for solutions if need be. For example, if the problem is that you can’t be sure when it is time to cross at an intersection with a traffic signal, read the "Modern Signalized Intersections" Chapter. If you’re having difficulty knowing how to align to cross a certain street, or where the edge of the street is, or how to cross a roundabout, read the "Finding the Crosswalk and Aligning to Cross" Chapter. If you think it is too dangerous to cross a street where there is no stop sign or traffic signal, read the Crossing Where There is No Traffic Control Chapter.

As you read the chapter that deals with your specific issue or problem, consider whether the issue can be resolved simply by gaining an understanding about the specific kind of intersection, or whether you need to advocate for a modification to make the intersection more accessible to you. For example, if the issue is that sometimes you don’t have enough time to cross at intersections with traffic signals, you may need to push a pedestrian pushbutton to ensure enough time to cross. If you cannot hear enough traffic sounds to know when it’s appropriate to cross, you may benefit from installing an Accessible Pedestrian Signal (APS)

Each chapter explains various kinds of traffic control and intersection design, and then explains modifications that can address some of the issues pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired encounter when they try to negotiate those features. Some of the modifications address intersection design, and some provide information in a format that is accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. Modifications to the intersection design can address issues such as blended curbs, diagonal crossing issues, roundabout and separate turning lanes, high traffic volumes or speed, wide streets, and drivers' turning into the path of pedestrians. APS are an example of a modification that can provide you with access to the information that sighted pedestrians have about the environment.

Once you determine that you need a modification to the environment, how do you make that happen? First, you need to find out who has jurisdiction for that intersection, street, or sidewalk. Although there are often exceptions, state departments of transportation (DOTs) are usually responsible for streets which have a route number and all the intersections along those streets. Counties and cities are usually responsible for all the streets and intersections within their jurisdiction which are not the responsibility of the state DOT, and these responsibilities are administered in the department of public works or transportation. Within each jurisdiction, responsibility for the signals, curbs and sidewalks may fall within different departments--a phone call to any of these departments will usually provide you with information about who is responsible for what.

When you contact the appropriate transportation professional or official, be specific about what the problem is, and what modifications would address it. Again, this information may be found in specific chapters of this handbook.

When you contact the appropriate transportation professional, he or she may be unaware of the needs of pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired, and even about the modifications that may be required to make the intersection or sidewalk accessible to these individuals. Sometimes, requests for accessibility modifications are misunderstood and/or referred to inappropriate departments. You may need to be patient, and to be very clear when describing what you need.

Thetransportation professional should inform you that the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) states that a public entity is required to apprise the public of the protections against discrimination afforded to them by Title II of the ADA, including information about how Title II requirements apply to its particular programs, services and activities (28 C.F.R. Part 35 § 35.106). A public entity also is required to provide an opportunity for interested persons, including individuals with disabilities or organizations representing individuals with disabilities, to participate in the development of policies and procedures that affect the implementation of an ADA transition plan by submitting comments and making specific recommendations.

You must ask thetransportation professional to provide you with the department’s grievance/complaint procedures so you can formally request the modification that is needed in the public right-of-way.

Whether the request is made by phone or email, the request should also be in writing, and you should keep records and notes about all communication with the jurisdiction.

You can find a template for writing a letter requesting the installation of an APS at the end of this chapter.

It is always ideal but not necessary to obtain a letter of support from a certified orientation and mobility specialist (COMS) certified by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP) for the modification you are requesting.

The following are common responses to requests for modifications to provide accessibility:

1. “We don’t have the funds to provide that modification.”

• You can tell them that their jurisdiction is required to have ADA self-evaluation and transition plans outlining how they will make all their facilities accessible, and funds need to be set aside to achieve those plans. These plans can include a priority system that stipulates how those funds are to be allocated in response to requests like yours,

• Federal government money is available for signals – ask them how much of that money was allocated to make their intersections accessible.

You can file an ADA Title II and a Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (RA) complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) or a lawsuit to restore/provide accessibility, if they refuse to consider your request.

Your ADA and RA complaint or lawsuit will be strengthened if you have exhausted the grievance/complaint procedures of the jurisdiction that has the authority over signals, curbs and sidewalks in the area where you want a modification to be made.

2. Refusal to consider request.

• You can ask, i.e., "Tell me where to go where I can get a ‘yes’; who is responsible and can say ‘yes’?”

• explain about the law and standards for accessibility, and how it can be enforced;

• tell them that other people who are visually impaired have successfully sued other jurisdictions who refused to accommodate their accessibility needs.

3. "Before we can install an APS, we have to budget enough money to redesign and make the entire intersection accessible by installing curb ramps and other accommodations."

• A common misperception about ADA law is that if the TEs change even one little thing in an intersection, such as installing an APS, they must make the entire intersection accessible to all people with disabilities. The fact is that if TEs make any alterations to an intersection, they have to make only that alteration accessible.

The rule for them to understand is: If you put it in, make it accessible. If you add it, make it accessible. If you alter it, make it accessible. But you are not required to do any work elsewhere in the intersection as a consequence -- every project is limited by its scope of work. That means, if the project is to put in an APS, you just have to do what's necessary to put in these devices.

To substantiate your position, refer the transportation professional to 28 CFR Part 35 Section 35.151(b): “Alteration. Each facility or part of a facility altered by, on behalf of, or for the use of a public entity in a manner that affects or could affect the usability of the facility or part of the facility shall, to the maximum extent feasible, be altered in such manner that the altered portion of the facility is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, if the alteration was commenced after January 26, 1992. “

So each PART that you alter must comply with the respective standard (or, if there isn't one, must be accessible to/usable by people who have disabilities). But there is no requirement to include other work.

There IS a requirement that says if you alter a SIDEWALK or a STREET, you must include curb ramps. However, Jones v. City of Houston, September 29, 2004, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas Houston Division, Case 4:03-cv-02286 says that adding information to the pedestrian signal ISN'T an alteration to a sidewalk or street.

4. Other people who are blind or visually impaired oppose the requested modification.

• Those who philosophically oppose the use of APS need not use them…the rest of us want them, and will use them.

• This is a civil rights access and safety issue that must be addressed.

5. Neighbors will complain about the APS noise level.

• Tell them that modern APS, when correctly installed according to the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), are to be audible 6 to 12 feet from the pushbutton, or to the building line, whichever is less.

• APS are required to have automatic volume adjustment in response to ambient traffic sound level and that volume cannot exceed a maximum volume of 100 dBA.

• The volume of APS audible walk indications and pushbutton locator tones should be set to be a maximum of 5 dBA louder than ambient sound, except when audible beaconing is provided in response to an extended pushbutton press. Note: Beaconing is the use of an audible signal in such a way that pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired can home in on the signal from the opposite corner as they cross the street. This is intended to provide directional orientation.

Standards, Regulations, and Enforcement

Use Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 amended 29 USC Section 794 Public Law 105-220 and ADA Title II, 28 CFR Part 35 Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services when making a request for an APS and after March 14th, 2012

It is sometimes more powerful to refer to Section 504 than to the ADA (it requires the agency to make reasonable accommodation, whereas Title II talks about wheelchairs access but not APS). For more background information regarding Section 504 refer to The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights fact sheet, the Federal Highway Administration Office of Civil Rights Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)/Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (504) and Questions and Answers about ADA/Section504

Some Words of Advice

• Realize that when you advocate for accommodation, it's not going to happen overnight.

• The first person you talk with probably won't be the last -- you're in this for the long haul.

• Don’t be shy about requesting accommodation for accessibility -- if more people like you make requests, there will be more awareness, more accessible features will be installed at new intersections, and costs will drop.

• It may help you (and the TEs) to realize that accommodations for pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired are not like those provided for people with physical disabilities, they usually involve providing information in an alternative format that is accessible without vision.

• Ped-bike coordinators (each state and local DOT has one of these positions) tend to be bicycle advocates and have a different point of view from the rest of DOT staff.

• Each jurisdiction is required to have an ADA coordinator. The DOJ can explain what ADA coordinators do and where to find them (there is no central list of where they are).

• The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has FAQ's and papers that may help explain and advocate for your cause. TEs tend to listen to publications and interpretations from FHWA. These FAQ’s include:

o What is your policy on APS?

o What is your process for handling requests for accommodation?

o Regulations regarding installation of detectable warnings.

Resources and contacts:

-- Accessible design for the blind
-- US Access board
-- Association for the Education and Rehabilitation for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Orientation and Mobility, Division 9,
--San Francisco APS Agreement-Law Office of Lainey Feingold

Template for the writing an APS request letter

Appendix A will assist the reader in the writing of a letter requesting the installation of an Accessible Pedestrian Signal. The same template can be modified to request other reasonable modifications in the public right-of-way, e.g. detectable warnings, curb ramps, etc.

For your letter to be considered a formal request, it is essential that you provide your signature or what is legally recognized as your signature.

Case Studies:

It may help if you learn what others have done to advocate successfully. Four examples of advocacy success in the form of case studies are found in Appendix B.


Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Americans with Disabilities Page.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Title II 28 CFR Part 35 Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services. July 26, 1991.

Questions and answers aboutADA/Section504

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 amended 29 USC Section 794 Public Law 105-220

The Federal Highway Administration Office of Civil Rights Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)/Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (504)

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights.

"Modern" Signalized Intersections

Janet M. Barlow, COMS
Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist
Accessible Design for the Blind

Lukas Franck, COMS, GDMI
Senior Special Projects Consultant
The Seeing Eye

Traffic signals have gotten smarter and smarter. As a consequence, pedestrians who are blind and visually impaired need to reconsider the strategies they have traditionally used for crossing streets. Those strategies may need an update. First, it’s important to understand the way traffic signals work.

Traffic signals change in two ways, either mechanically or by computer. Computers control most traffic signals now. The computers that control intersection timings are usually called “controller assemblies” (CA). Sometimes traffic signals are controlled from traffic management centers located miles from the intersection.

Some intersections have extremely complex programming that allows the intersection timing to change constantly based upon demand. There are two basic types of programs used at traffic signals. An individual signal may be managed by both programs at different times of day. This depends on the decisions made by traffic engineers who strive to make the intersection function efficiently.

Pretimed (fixed time) traffic signals change with a predictable, regularly repeated sequence of signal indications. For example, a light that changes every 30 seconds is a pretimed or fixed timed light. The vehicles on the major street get more time, in rush hour, the time allocated to the major street can be even longer. Generally, pretimed signals are very predictable. Most signals used to be of this type. They are still common in downtown areas because traffic volume is predictable, stable, and fairly consistent. In some cities, the old style mechanical CA are still in use and the gear mechanisms can be heard as they click into place.

Traffic actuated signals always have CA (computers) that respond, either to the traffic that is present, or to commands from a remote Traffic Management Center. For example, if there is only one car in the northbound lanes, the northbound signal may be green only for enough time to allow that car to cross the intersection and if there’s no pedestrian (or if the computer that controls the intersection doesn’t KNOW there is a pedestrian there), the signal may not provide enough time for a pedestrian to cross the road. At rush hour you may have to wait longer than usual for the longer pedestrian signal because the “Traffic Command Center” decides to delay your long pedestrian phase to keep traffic moving more efficiently.


How do intersections “know” that there are cars or pedestrians needing a turn? At actuated intersections, detectors are installed in all or some of the lanes that recognize when there are vehicles present. Vehicle detection is accomplished by the use of metal cables laid in the street, which sense when a vehicle drives over them. This method of detection is called an induction loop.

It is also becoming increasingly common to use computerized video cameras, mounted overhead, to detect vehicles, and less commonly, pedestrians.

The detectors sense the presence of a car or cars. They send that information to the CA that makes a decision, based upon its programming, about how long to allocate green to each street. A single car waiting on a side street to cross or turn onto a major six lane street may get less than seven seconds of green light, followed by a few seconds of yellow, and then all red, to accommodate that movement! If there were five cars waiting on that side street, more time would be allotted, perhaps 15 seconds of green, plus the several seconds of yellow and all red time. If there were no cars on the side street, the CA would know that too, and the light would never change!

Turn Arrows

At many major intersections, safety may dictate that cars making a left turn have a dedicated point in the signal cycle just for them. The drivers know that it is their turn because they get a green “turn arrow” instead of a regular green light. When turning on an arrow, those vehicles have the right of way, even when crossing the crosswalk. The WALK SIGN will not come on until after the turning phase is over for that reason. Drivers will not be expecting pedestrians to be crossing during the arrow. However, this can be confusing for pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired listening to the cycle because, if there are no cars that need to turn, that ‘phase’ may be skipped over. The CA, getting no information from the sensor, skips the phase. A pedestrian who has a visual impairment may therefore encounter different timings at an intersection at different times. It is easy to become confused, because the initial movement of cars on the parallel street may in fact be one of these dedicated turning movements and not the through parallel traffic movement that provides a cue to the beginning of the cross walk signal. Don’t get caught!

Pedestrian Timing and Pedestrian Signals

If the intersection was designed for pedestrian use, there may be a visual pedestrian Walk/Don't Walk signal, sometimes called a “pedhead”, short for pedestrian signal head. To get a walk signal, you must push the pedestrian button to get the “pedestrian timing”, which is usually longer than the time allotted for vehicles. Especially when the main street is very wide, the green phase programmed for a single car will not be long enough to allow a pedestrian to safely cross the street. In that situation, it is essential for the pedestrian to push the pedestrian pushbutton in order to have enough time to walk across the street. Rather than five to seven seconds for a single car, a pedestrian may get twenty seconds or more to cross the same street, but only IF the CA "knows" the pedestrian is there.

The messages provided by the pedheads are so widely misunderstood by the general public that they are worth a review here.

The WALK interval is generally only 4 to 7 seconds long. The pedestrian is expected to leave the curb during this interval, but is allocated a much longer period to make it across the street.

When a flashing DON'T WALK or ORANGE HAND is visible, it is called the "pedestrian clearance interval". It lasts much longer than the WALK interval. It is often misunderstood, but the intent of flashing DON'T WALK is to discourage pedestrians from entering the intersection and starting to cross when there is not sufficient time to complete the crossing. The pedestrian who is in the middle of the street generally has time to complete the crossing after the flashing DON'T WALK begins.

The solid DON’T WALK signal occurs after the flashing DON’T WALK, usually at the same time as the vehicles’ yellow signal. Pedestrians should have cleared the intersection at that point. There is also usually a "vehicular change interval" when the light is red in all directions.

In many areas, a visual countdown is now being incorporated into the pedhead. This signal is usually orange numbers counting down the number of seconds left in the flashing don’t walk signal, displayed beside the orange hand. In some locations, the countdown begins during Walk, so the orange numbers may be changing beside the white “walking man” WALK symbol. This is technically incorrect (not allowed by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD)). Where this is done, it has been confusing to some pedestrians with low vision who have mistaken the countdown for the flashing don’t walk (at the same time the WALK is displayed).

In some cases there may be a pedestrian button but no pedhead. In that case, pushing the button will change the signal timing to allow enough time for pedestrians to cross but the pedestrians are expected to rely the vehicle signals as indications about when it is safe to initiate a crossing. There is no separate information provided for pedestrians.

Here are two other variations that will require an Accessible Pedestrian Signal (APS) if a pedestrian who is blind is to have equal benefit from pedestrian-friendly designs!

Leading Pedestrian Intervals

Sometimes pedestrians can be given a head start, called a leading pedestrian interval (LPI). The pedestrian WALK may be displayed 3 to 5 seconds before the vehicles get a green signal. This is to allow pedestrians to begin crossing before cars begin turning right on green. However, without an APS, pedestrians who are blind may not know about an LPI, and might begin crossing with near side parallel traffic – precisely when drivers are NOT expecting them to go.

All Stop (Scramble or Barnes Dance) Light Signals

At other signals, the pedestrian timing is provided at a time when all vehicles have a red signal, technically called an “exclusive pedestrian phase”. Again, without an APS, pedestrians who are blind may not know when the pedestrian phase begins, or may begin crossing when a vehicle stops for another reason. Or the pedestrian who is blind may cross with the parallel traffic, essentially illegally since pedestrians are required to “obey pedestrian signals when present”, in most states.

Strategies - Crossing with “near side parallel traffic”

The traditional technique used by pedestrians who are blind is to initiate the crossing when there is a surge of parallel traffic movement. Travelers may delay beginning the crossing until they are sure that the traffic is going straight and not a vehicle turning right on red (Allen, et al, 1997; Hill and Ponder, 1976; LaGrow & Weesies, 1994; Jacobson, 1993; Willoughby & Monthei, 1998). With current signalization patterns, the above strategy needs refinement and additional detail, to focus on only certain lanes of traffic.

The pedestrian walk signal is usually coordinated with the movement of the traffic in the parallel through lane nearest to the pedestrian, also called the “near side parallel” traffic. If you received orientation and mobility (O&M) training a number of years ago, you may not have heard or used that strategy. It’s intended to prevent beginning crossing while cars are turning across the crosswalk on a left turn arrow.

Traffic in the “near lane” may be traveling in the same direction as the pedestrian or may be coming toward the pedestrian from across the intersection. Mainly, when crossing with the parallel street on your right side (clockwise crossing), the nearest lane is the traffic coming toward you from across the intersection, rather than the traffic moving in the same direction as you are going. When crossing with the parallel street on your left side (counterclockwise crossing), the near side parallel traffic is going the same direction, coming from behind you.

Vehicles may still be permitted to turn left after the near side traffic is moving, but they no longer have the right of way and are required to yield to oncoming traffic and to pedestrians in the crosswalk. When traffic in the near parallel lane is moving and steady, it also can block left turning traffic from crossing the crosswalk.

Although this technique can prevent crossing into traffic turning with a left turn arrow, and timing usually coincides with the WALK, there are intersections where there is intermittent or no parallel traffic and the signal status cannot be determined well enough by traffic sounds. At such intersections, including those with exclusive pedestrian phasing or an LPI, an APS is needed to provide access to walk signal information.

Variations on a theme – advocacy

As was previously mentioned, it is also possible for a street or intersection to operate on a pre-timed basis at some times, and on actuated control at other times. Also, in case of construction damage to the detectors, or computer failure, the intersection will usually revert to pre-timed mode. The possible variations make it important to locate and use pedestrian pushbuttons, to carefully analyze the traffic, and to cross with the ‘near side parallel traffic’ movement. However, even doing all those things right may not result in crossing at the ‘right time’ at every intersection. It may be helpful to call your local traffic engineer to get the details when using an unfamiliar intersection. It may help to learn the theory and "jargon" so that you can solicit the information from traffic engineers. Please see the glossary for some key terms.

The fact that signals can be programmed to switch back and forth between fixed timed and actuated modes has already been discussed, as has the fact that sometimes traffic signal timings can be changed in real time from remote Traffic Management Centers.

Right Turn on Red continues to complicate the street crossing task. Particularly where there are heavy right turn volumes, pedestrians who are blind will often find it difficult to know precisely when the pedestrian signal changes in their favor, while the pedestrian who is sighted, having access to that information visually, will have no problem.

In a nutshell, the computerization of intersection control means that traffic engineers have flexible tools at their disposal to make traffic move more efficiently. This same flexibility can make the street crossing task more complicated for pedestrians who are blind. This both explains and supports the current concern and advocacy for APS. Access to visual street crossing information is imperative when there is so much flexibility and variety in traffic control.


For all of the reasons discussed in this chapter, it is important to understand modern intersection design. In many instances this information may lead the reader to advocate for an APS at a particular location.

Technology has had an impact on APS as well, and more information on this important topic can be found in the Chapter on Accessible Pedestrian Signals.


Allen, Gary. “From Knowledge to words to wayfinding: Issues in the production and comprehension of route directions.” S.C. Hirtle and A.U. Franks, eds. Spatial Information Theory: A Theoretical Basis for GIS. International Conference COSIT '97, Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania, USA, October 15-18, 1997. Proceedings (Lecture Notes in Computer Science).

Hill, Everett W. and Purvis Ponder. Orientation and Mobility Techniques: A Guide for the Practioner. New York: American Federation of the Blind Press, 1976.

LaGrow, Steven and Marvin Weesies. Orientation and Mobility Techniques for Independence. New Zealand: Dunmore Press, nd.

Jacobson, William H. The Art and Science of teaching orientation and mobility to persons with visual impairments. New York: American Federation of the Blind Press, 1993.

Willoughby, Doris M. and Sharon L. Monthei. Modular instruction for independent travel for students who are blind or visually impaired-preschool through high school. Baltimore: National Federation of the Blind, 1998.

Finding the Crosswalk and Aligning to Cross

Janet Barlow, COMS
Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist
Accessible Design for the Blind

Billie Louise (Beezy) Bentzen, COMS
Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist
Accessible Design for the Blind

Lois Thibault
Coordinator of Research (Retired)
U.S. Access Board

Identifying the Sidewalk/Street Boundary

Recognizing that you’ve arrived at the street involves assessing a number of cues:

· The end of a building line transitioning to the openness of an intersection;

· Changes in wind direction;

· The sound of idling or moving perpendicular traffic, or turning and/or stopping parallel traffic;

· A down-curb, curb ramp, or similar sloped transition in the sidewalk;

· Detectable warning (DW) surface underfoot at the flush connection to the street.

· The locator tone of an accessible pedestrian signal (APS), where one is installed;

· The presence of waiting pedestrians, or the whistle of a traffic officer or bell of a turning cyclist.

If you feel the counterslope of a downslope to the gutter followed by an upslope, you may have inadvertently stepped into the street at a location without other cues.

If you are expecting to find the street edge and do not, you may also be in a location where the sidewalk has been extended at the corner, called a bulb-out or curb extension, which shortens the crossing distance and improves pedestrian visibility, but means that the crossing begins further from the building line than usual.

Curb ramps

Curb ramp slopes may be relatively steep, which can help in detecting the street edge. And the ‘toe’ or base of a curb ramp must fall within the crosswalk area; however there is no requirement that the curb ramp slope be aligned with the direction of travel on the crosswalk. There are many different ways that curb ramps can be built to connect the sidewalk to the street at a crossing. Understanding those possibilities may help you recognize the edge of the street better as you travel.

The most common connection is a perpendicular curb ramp, in which a section of the sidewalk slopes down to the street. The edges of the ramp may be ‘returned’ with curbs on each side of the ramps or ‘flared’ with sides that slope back up to the sidewalk level. Returned curb edges on the ramps are usually found where there is a landscape strip between the curb and sidewalk, and flared sides are usual when the sidewalk is paved to the curb. Perpendicular ramps need wide sidewalks to be usable – almost 12 feet where curbs are 6 inches in height.

In older sidewalks, there may be only one curb ramp, at the apex of the corner; these are often called ‘diagonal’ ramps because they are oriented towards the center of the intersection rather than towards the crosswalk. Newer sidewalks should have one ramp for each crosswalk but the slope of those ramps may not be aligned with the crosswalk because the base of the ramp must be square to the gutter to avoid causing tipping problems for wheelchair users.

DWs should be located across the base of the ramp, just behind the edge of the street. DWs are required to line up with the edge of the street and the slope of the ramp; they may not be aligned with the direction of the crosswalk.

In narrower sidewalks, parallel ramps are common; this is a ramp type in which the whole sidewalk slopes down to a level landing and then back up again. Parallel ramps are usually installed in narrow sidewalks that are along the street edge, often called curb-attached sidewalks, or sidewalks at back of curb. There are flat areas at street level where you may have to turn to cross within the crosswalk. Parallel ramps may be ‘diagonal’ or have a shared landing, with only one location to cross from at the corner, or there may be two landing areas, one for each crossing. In that case you’ll find the sidewalk sloping up and down twice as you turn a corner. One of the more confusing aspects of parallel ramps is that there may be a curb at the back of the landing, to keep dirt or landscaping from washing down into the landing space, so you might find yourself walking down a sloping sidewalk to an area that is located between a DW and a low curb. In most cases, you are still on the sidewalk, but it can be confusing to find a curb on the side of the sidewalk away from the street and DWs on the other. DWs should be installed along the edge of the street at the landing, for the full width of the edge that is flush with the street.

In some cities, a combination of these two curb ramp types is used. First, the sidewalk slopes down a bit, connecting to a level landing from which a pair of short perpendicular ramps connects to the street.

Some cities use lower-slope ‘blended transitions’ in which the whole corner slopes gently down to the intersection. In these connections, the DW will extend in a quarter-round curve from one crosswalk to the other, giving few directional cues to the crossing.

Similar low-slope connections will be found where the crosswalk itself is raised to sidewalk height – a raised crossing, sometimes also described as a speed table for its traffic-calming effects. Raised crossings can provide accessibility in very narrow sidewalks where there is little room for curb ramps. Because there is no slope or gutter to identify them, DWs will be the only indication of the boundary between sidewalk and street. This is also true at medians and pedestrian islands that are cut through level with the roadway surface.

The underfoot cues provided by curb ramps -- slope, DWs, gutter counterslope -- can augment cues about street location obtained from traffic sounds. But curb ramps and blended transitions are not accurate indicators of crossing direction and should not be relied on as an indication of the direction of the crossing.


Travel strategies for approaching an intersection and detecting the street edge include:

· Assessment of audible traffic and other cues;

· Attention to changes in building line, intersecting sidewalks, locations of poles and “street furniture”

· Constant contact technique to detect small changes, slowing to maintain your line of approach;

· Attention to small changes in slope or texture;

· Cane contact to the side to locate a curb when you think you’ve reached the street edge on a curb ramp

· Pushbutton locator tones of audible signals;

Possible modifications

To help detect the street/sidewalk boundary, request the installation of DWs or other features. The pushbutton locator tone of an audible pedestrian signal can also indicate that you’re close to the street and crossing so requesting audible and vibrotactile pedestrian signals can add wayfinding information.
Locating the crosswalk

Traditional strategies for locating the crosswalk assume that the sidewalk, curb ramp or other transition, and the crosswalk itself are all in-line with your approach heading so you can maintain your line of approach when you come to a curb or corner. However, sidewalks and streets and their intersections are rarely so standardized these days. Remember that the curb ramp is supposed to be within the crosswalk; the location of the ramp may provide a good cue about the crosswalk location. If you reach the street from the ramp or blended transition area, DWs will indicate the sidewalk/street edge, but the DWs may not be lined up with the crossing direction and may not indicate a good crossing location.

The crosswalk may not be at the corner, but could be offset. Streets may curve or expand to add vehicle lanes or have very rounded corners to allow trucks to turn, or cars to turn at higher speed. In some locations, one leg of the crossing of the major street may be closed to pedestrians without any accessible information (like a fence or other barrier).Streets that don’t meet at right angles will have angled crossings, and some streets are engineered with separated right turn lanes or roundabouts.


Strategies to locate crossing points and refine crossing direction rely on an evaluation of the corner location and traffic movement in all directions. This takes time.

· Listen to parallel traffic as you approach a corner. Do you find that the parallel traffic seems to be moving behind you, or are you no longer sure which is your parallel traffic? Suspect a large-radius corner, a channelized turn lane you will cross to an island for the major crossings, or a roundabout. Listen more carefully for cues that indicate what the intersection geometry may be. Be aware of your body turning or your cane dropping off the curb to the side (you may think you’re veering toward the street, but it may be that the street is curving around the corner). Stop and listen for traffic on both streets. Possibly ask another pedestrian or a friend about the geometry.

· Trail the outside shoreline or curb (be careful of turning traffic) and use a wide cane technique to find the curb ramp. Analyze the relationship of the curb ramps. Listen carefully for parallel and perpendicular traffic to decide whether the curb ramp is more or less perpendicular with the street you want to cross, or is an apex (single diagonal) ramp directed toward the center of the intersection.

· Position yourself on the side of the curb ramp away from the center of the intersection; this will usually be within the crosswalk area and puts you close to parallel traffic but not too close. Many feel that it is often the best place to begin crossing from.

· Expect to find crosswalks (and curb ramps) at channelized turn lanes about halfway between the parallel and perpendicular streets.

· At roundabouts, the crosswalk for the parallel street will be before you reach the corner and the crosswalk for crossing the perpendicular street will be after you’ve completely rounded the corner. You have to turn toward the street to cross.

· Be aware that the presence of DWs does not mean that there is a safe crossing at that location.

· Once you have located the crosswalk, explore to find landmarks that work well for you, that you can find reliably, and that you may be able to use for alignment.

Possible modifications

When intersections are newly constructed or reconstructed, they should incorporate useful environmental cues such as continuous landscaping between roadway curb and sidewalk, making curb ramp locations more obvious, barriers/fences/bollards to help define the travel path, and short curb radii to permit directional curb ramps where these are feasible. However, it’s quite common to see newly build intersections without such features.

Where effective cues to crossing location aren’t available at existing intersections, request an APS with a locator tone and tactile arrow to indicate crossing location or planters or landscape strips located to frame the sidewalk and crosswalk.

Aligning to Cross

Traditional strategies for aligning to cross assumed that the crosswalk was relatively well-aligned with the direction of travel on the sidewalk and included:

1. Maintain line of approach

2. Align with parallel traffic (traffic moving alongside you in the same direction as your desired crossing)

3. Square off with perpendicular traffic (traffic that you are intending to cross) and/or curb

With the non-traditional curb ramp and sidewalk designs being used now, it may be very difficult to maintain a straight line of approach. And with the need to push a pedestrian pushbutton to have adequate time to cross the street, it is not usually possible to hold the approach line and cross because of the need to find and use the pushbutton before crossing. In many instances, there is little or no parallel traffic, such as when you are crossing a major street with little regular traffic on the minor street, the ‘top’ of a T-intersection, or an offset intersection. Careful analysis and additional time may be needed to analyze crossing direction where parallel streams of traffic don’t provide good cues. Some intersections have angled and/or multiple legs and there is no standard for crosswalk orientation. At those kinds of locations, some crosswalks may be perpendicular to the street (and thus the shortest crossing), while others will take the angle of the intersection (requiring longer travel in the street, but possibly more parallel to traffic). Finding the curb ramp(s) , one can identify the departure point, but the route to the arrival curb may be unclear if there is not a pedestrian signal with a locator tone to act as a beacon or some other wayfinding modifications.

Parallel/perpendicular sound cues will not be available at channelized turn lanes (slip lanes) that diverge from one street direction to connect to the intersecting street. Crossing this lane connects to a pedestrian refuge island where the major streets can be crossed using standard techniques. These channelized turn lanes will typically have one crosswalk at the apex (or center) of the curve, however, that is not standardized at this time; crosswalks to the island may be marked along either street instead. The curb ramp may provide useful cues to crossing direction, and crossing perpendicular to traffic movement can be a good strategy if you know the crosswalk is at the center of the curve. The same technique may work in circular intersections -- roundabouts and large rotaries, but the crosswalks may be angled in ways that make it very difficult to determine appropriate alignment. Landscaping, curb ramp direction and other cues may be helpful, but traffic sound cues will not usually provide good alignment cues.

Strategies for determining travel direction should not rely on curb ramp slope or DW orientation, as these may be designed for wheelchair travel. Work is underway nationally to promote more directional curb ramps, but existing ramps may not be replaced for many years. As mentioned earlier, the curb ramp/DW can identify a starting point, since the base of the ramp must be within the crosswalk if it is marked.


All these changes require some changes in how you align for a crossing. To align at an unfamiliar crossing, approach the intersection, holding your line of approach line as well as you can, and stop at the curb or edge of the street. Listen to the traffic and determine if it’s a signalized intersection. If it is signalized, listen to a few cycles of the light to try to get a good sense of traffic movement and alignment. Parallel traffic is usually, but not always, moving parallel to the crosswalk direction. Listening for the traffic on the perpendicular street, both moving traffic and waiting traffic, may also be useful for alignment. You want to listen for where the vehicles stop for the light. The stop line is supposed to be about 4 feet before the crosswalk line (further from the intersection). When you feel you are aligned for the crossing, and you’ve determined that the intersection is signalized, it’s usually necessary to leave that location and find a pedestrian pushbutton to call the pedestrian signal. So before looking for and using a pushbutton, align for the desired crossing and find a tactile landmark to return to before looking for the pushbutton. After pushing the pushbutton, you’ll return to the landmark and use it to re-align quickly.

Poles, grass edging, slope changes, angle of the curb, street edge or curb ramp can all combine to confirm the correct alignment. Asking other pedestrians may also be helpful.

If an APS is installed, the pushbutton locator tone may help you find the pushbutton and raised tactile arrow. The arrow on the APS is supposed to be aligned with the direction of travel on the crosswalk and can be used to confirm your travel direction and to confirm that you have found the APS for your crossing. They aren’t always installed correctly, so you must use all cues and information available to you to confirm your alignment at an unfamiliar location.

Be ready to adjust your alignment while crossing. Watch that you’re using straight-through traffic (not turning traffic) to align with while crossing. The raised edges of crosswalk markings, the slope and camber of the street, the traffic waiting on the perpendicular street, or a change in surface materials may help to refine your heading.

Possible modifications

Where traditional cues aren’t effective, confer with local traffic and/or signals engineers to develop a treatment that provides the needed information, whether it is a landmark, beacon, guidestrip, or directional curb ramp(s) that can be relied on. Ask first about the intersection geometry, since there may be a good alignment cue nearby. There is some ongoing research on wayfinding cues, looking at tactile guide strips and modifications to APS to provide beaconing.

Your best strategy seems to be to take your time and use your experience and observation skills to analyze each situation carefully. If there are other pedestrians nearby, pay attention to what they are doing, and if you feel comfortable, ask for advice. Advocate for installation of the environmental changes that can assist you in locating crosswalks and aligning yourself properly for safe street crossings.

Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS)

Janet M. Barlow, COMS
Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist
Accessible Design for the Blind

Lukas Franck, COMS, GDMI
Senior Special Projects Consultant
The Seeing Eye

The most recent recommendations for accessible pedestrian signals (APS) are based on an entirely different type of device and installation than the overhead cuckoo-chirp type signals that have been installed in many parts of the US. You may be more familiar with the cuckoo-chirp type signals, but they are no longer the recommended standard in the US. This is based on research completed since 1988, including an ACB survey in 1998, evaluating different types of APS systems. First, we learned that the cuckoo-chirp signals resulted in incorrect decisions about which street had the walk signal. People had difficulty remembering which tone was for which direction, often didn’t know which direction they were traveling, and birds sometimes mimicked the chirp sound. In general, this was found to be true for “two-tone” systems of signals; people made incorrect decisions. There was no advantage to overhead mounted signals, in terms of providing directional guidance for crossing, and they had to be louder and were more likely to be disturbing to neighbors. The research is described in Appendix C, in Accessible Pedestrian Signals: A Guide to Best Practice, at

New kinds of APS

The new kinds of APS are usually called pushbutton-integrated APS. They are a part of the pushbutton and are supposed to be installed near the crosswalk they signal. There are several important features that you should be aware of: pushbutton locator tones, audible and vibrotactile walk indications, tactile arrows, and automatic volume adjustment.

It is important to recognize that the APS information supplements -- but does not replace -- traffic cues. APS provide information only about the status of the signal, so the APS Walk sound tells you 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 signal sound can be compared to the "on your mark" instruction at the beginning of a race. It means that the signal has changed, but it is still important to "get set" (check the traffic). Then, after that, if all sounds right, you can “GO” (begin to cross).

Along with the new features of APS, there are new recommendations for installation. Be sure to read the section below on APS locations!

APS features

Pushbutton locator tones.

The pushbutton locator tones repeat constantly at once per second, rather like a grandfather clock, to help you locate a pedestrian pushbutton. They come from a speaker at the pushbutton and are supposed to be loud enough to be heard 6 to 12 feet from the pushbuttons, or to the building line, whichever is less. You should not expect to hear the locator tone much before getting to the corner, or during the entire time while you’re crossing the street. The quieter locator tone allows you to hear traffic sounds better. These tones will continue all the time, except during the WALK interval . When you hear this sound, it means you should wait to begin your crossing.

Tactile arrows.

There is a raised tactile arrow either on the pushbutton or somewhere on the housing that is supposed to be installed so that it lines up with the direction of travel on the crosswalk. Basically that means the arrow will be aligned with the crosswalk lines. You can use the arrow to check to be sure the APS is for the street you intend to cross. There will often be two APS on a corner, so you need to be sure you’re pushing the right pushbutton and listening for the right device to sound. Beginning in early 2012, the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) will require that new APS installations have a tactile arrow on the pushbutton.

However, there are some units that have been installed in recent years that have the arrow on the sign above the button or on top of the device.

So if the APS has a pushbutton locator tone and does not have an arrow on the pushbutton, you might want to search around the button to see if you find a raised arrow.

Audible walk indications.

When the visual WALK sign is on, the recommended standard for the audible equivalent now is a rapid ticking or beeping sound. However, it also might be a speech message saying the street name, then, walk sign is on to cross the street name, as in “Peachtree, Walk sign is on to cross Peachtree”. The audible walk indication usually will repeat for the entire time the visual Walk or ‘walking man’ symbol is displayed.

The rapid tick is supposed to be used at locations wherever the two APS are separated by 10 feet or more and located beside the crosswalk. If it’s impossible to separate the pushbuttons 10 feet or more, a speech message is needed in order to tell which street has the walk. To use the speech message effectively, you have to know the name of the street you’re crossing so additional features are also required.

These requirements are based on research that found the rapid tick to be more detectable in traffic noise and to result in more accurate and faster decisions by pedestrians who were blind. Speech messages seem very user-friendly, but have to be louder to be detected and understood, require users to understand English and know the street names, and result in somewhat slower crossing decisions than when a pedestrian is listening to the rapid tick indications. As mentioned earlier, the research is described in Appendix C in Accessible Pedestrian Signals: A Guide to Best Practice, at

Figuring out when to cross at an “exclusive pedestrian phase”, sometimes called a scramble light, can be confusing. Here the regulations can allow for a speech message which announces “WALK sign is on for all crossings”, or the rapid tick sound may be installed for all crossings.

Vibrotactile walk indications.

The arrow, on the pushbutton or the pushbutton housing, vibrates for the entire time the visual Walk or ‘walking man’ symbol is displayed. You must have your hand on the arrow in order to feel it.

Automatic volume adjustment.

A pushbutton-integrated APS also responds to sound around it, getting louder when traffic is loud and quieter when traffic is quieter. Be sure that you listen for a fast tick, or a speech message with the street name and the words, “WALK SIGN is on”, and not for a change in volume as a crossing indication. Just because you suddenly hear a louder locator tone, that does not mean it is time to cross.

Audible Beaconing

Audible beaconing is a feature that is included in some APS. It is activated only when pedestrians hold the pushbutton in for more than a second. If audible beaconing is installed, there usually will be a louder pushbutton locator tone during the flashing don’t walk of the next pedestrian phase, on the crosswalk controlled by that pushbutton.

Other features

Some additional features may be provided, activated by an “extended button press”. This means that if you hold the pushbutton in for over a second, the APS may then provide a pushbutton information message, audible beaconing, or additional time to cross the street. A pushbutton information message will provide the street names and will begin with the word ‘WAIT’. See for information about other possible features.

Location is Important!

The ideal location of pushbutton-integrated APS is on two separated poles, rather than with two pushbuttons on one pole. The US Access Board’s draft guidelines call for the APS to be installed on a pole on the side of the ramp landing, farthest from the parallel street. That means that, if your parallel street is on your left, the APS for crossing the street in front of you is supposed to be on your right. And if your parallel street is on your right, the APS for crossing the street in front of you will be on your left. Understanding those location standards will help you find the correct APS and help your city install them correctly. The location of APS is not very consistent now, but we need to work toward consistency in installation as well as features.

Using APS effectively

(adapted from Barlow, J.M., and Franck, L. (2005) Crossroads: Modern interactive intersections and Accessible Pedestrian Signals. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness. Vol. 99, (10), 599-610.)

As stated earlier, it is important to recognize that the APS information supplements -- but does not replace -- traffic cues. APS provide information only about the status of the signal, so the APS Walk sound tells you 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 signal sound can be compared to the "on your mark" instruction at the beginning of a race. It means that the signal has changed, but it is still important to "get set" (check the traffic). Then, after that, if all sounds right, you can “GO” (begin to cross).

Crossing at an intersection using an APS:

When using an APS at an unfamiliar intersection, take your time and become familiar with the APS and intersection before crossing. Here are some suggestions for familiarizing yourself to the APS:

Approach the intersection and stop at the curb or curb ramp or street edge, maintaining your initial alignment and check your alignment for crossing by listening to traffic. Even if you hear a pushbutton locator tone before you get to the street, continue to the curb or edge of the street first.

Determine your starting location for crossing, and identify tactile and audible cues to use to realign after pressing the pushbutton.

Listen and evaluate the intersection. Determine traffic patterns and the geometry of the intersection and listen for a pushbutton locator tone, or a tone or spoken Walk indication.

Remember the difference between a pushbutton locator tone and walk indication and listen to see what is there. Pushbutton locator tones are going to be repetitive, at once per second, like a grandfather clock - throughout the Flashing Don’t Walk and Don’t Walk. If there is a pushbutton for each crosswalk on the corner, you may hear two locator tones sounding. Sometimes the locator tones will be in sync with each other and sometimes out of sync. Check the tactile arrow to be sure a pushbutton controls the signal for the street you want to cross

Listen through a cycle to confirm the sounds and the street they apply to. Bear in mind that if the audible Walk indications seem to be available at every change of the light, you are probably at a “fixed time” location, and a button press will not be necessary. However, sometimes you still have to push a pushbutton for the major street crossing, even when audible indications sound every cycle for the minor street crossing.

When crossing any major roadway, whether you hear an APS or not, you should probably search for a pushbutton. As is noted in Modern Intersections chapter the pushbutton can have a significant effect on the amount of time available to cross a street. (Use a systematic search pattern to maintain orientation. It’s easy to get turned around and end up facing the wrong street, if you don’t pay close attention at this point.

Because dog guides are trained to avoid obstacles, they may be reluctant to approach poles that support 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. Locate the tactile arrow and confirm that the arrow is pointing in the direction of the street that you intended to cross.

The arrows should be, but are not always, aligned with the direction of travel on the crosswalk, and so might provide another cue for alignment. You may be able to align the outside of your arm with the pushbutton and flat face of the APS to help with the direction to cross.

Hold the pushbutton down for one to three seconds to see if more information is provided (see info on pushbutton information messages and audible beaconing under Other Features in this chapter).

Listen to the APS and traffic for a full cycle to make sure that the tones or speech walk indication corresponds to the traffic information.

Press the pushbutton when the perpendicular traffic starts to move in order to allow time for you to return to your predetermined spot at the curb, realign, and prepare to cross. Be ready to cross.

When you hear the Walk indication, (On Your Mark!) confirm that traffic on the perpendicular street is stopping or stopped, and listen for initial parallel traffic movements, if available (Get Set!).

Cross the street (Go!), using typical alignment techniques (paying attention to traffic, maintaining a straight line of travel, and so forth) and continue 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.

The pushbutton locator tone on the destination curb may be audible as you approach the last lane of the street, but may not be audible from the middle of the street.

More information

Information on Accessible Pedestrian Signals can be found at

Accessible Countdown Sidebar

To clarify the information, an orange countdown indicating remaining time available for crossing is displayed next to the Flashing Don’t Walk, or flashing orange hand. When the steady Don’t Walk or solid Orange Hand is displayed (which usually corresponds to the yellow light for vehicles), the countdown should be at zero. Studies have shown that this countdown has made the symbol of the Walking Man, followed by the Flashing Orange Hand (pedestrian clearance interval) clearer to sighted pedestrians, and resulted in pedestrians completing their crossings before the signal changed.

There is no consensus at this time within the blind and visually impaired community as to the extent of information that is to be provided by an accessible pedestrian countdown signal and whether it should count down the seconds available in the flashing don’t walk interval for completing the crossing.

Some advocates believe that only during the WALK interval is there a need to be provided an auditory announcement that they can leave the curb and enter the intersection. Further these individuals feel that having access to the countdown information is not as important to them, because of the possible negative effect on their ability to hear cars.

On the other hand, there are advocates who believe that all information presented visually must be matched by audible information and that the speech countdown can be used for directional guidance through an intersection. These individuals feel that from the standpoint of equal access they have the right to all the same information that is made available to persons who are sighted, such as the length of time remaining during the pedestrian clearance interval. They feel that hearing the countdown enables persons who are visually impaired to know exactly what pace they should maintain or adjust instead of having to speed up at the very end when surprised by the ending of the cycle. Further, they feel that the auditory countdown provides directional guidance assistance through an intersection for persons who are visually impaired.

While the authors are generally sympathetic to the viewpoint of those who want the countdown to be provided in audible format, we disagree for several reasons:

1. The speech message of the audible countdown might be mistaken for the Walk signal by persons who approach during the flashing Don’t Walk interval, leading them to begin crossing during the flashing Don’t Walk.

2. Pedestrians who are blind generally want to be able to hear traffic while crossing the street. The audible message could distract them from hearing traffic, particularly quiet vehicles. For the countdown to be equivalent it must be audible for the length of the crossing, just as it is visible for the length of the crossing. For this to happen it would need to be quite loud, blocking traffic noise as well as interfering with the traveler’s ability to concentrate and correctly interpret the distance, direction, and the rate of approach of vehicles while in the street.

3. Pedestrians who have vision impairments, without access to the accompanying visual orange hand, signifying “wait”, have been reported to assume that the countdown was counting down the time until the beginning of the walk interval, resulting in their beginning to cross just as conflicting traffic commenced.

4. Additional cognitive processing may be required to interpret a verbal message, such as an audible countdown.

5. Pedestrians with visual impairments are not usually able to precisely judge the width of streets to be crossed unless they have previously crossed them. While crossing the street, they may not know how much further they have to go to reach the curb, so the countdown may not provide information that is usable or advantageous. If the countdown says 4, do you know how far you can walk in that time? Before crossing, pedestrians who are unfamiliar with a particular crossing may hear, for example, 20 (seconds) and assume that is plenty of time to cross even what sounds like a major street. However, if that street has eight travel lanes, the pedestrian traveling at 3.5 feet per second will not have time to reach the far side of the street before the end of the flashing don’t walk interval.

6. It has been documented that providing a louder locator tone during the flashing don’t walk, from the accessible pedestrian signal on the opposite end of the crosswalk, improves accuracy for pedestrians who are blind in completing crossings within the crosswalk. (Scott, Barlow, Bentzen, Bond, and Grubbe, 2008). It is unlikely that countdown messages at an elevated volume will work as well, because speech is not as localizable as a percussive tone, nor as detectable and intelligible in traffic sounds. This louder locator tone is provided in response to an extended button press, so it has the potential of disturbing surrounding people only on the occasions when it is actuated by pedestrians who desire directional guidance.

For all of these reasons, at least until there is further research on the subject of audible countdown indications, the authors believe that APS sounds should be restricted to:

a) an audible equivalent to the visual WALK display, signifying the beginning of the pedestrian phase,

b) pushbutton locator tones, providing information about the location of the pushbuttons, possibly with options for boosting the volume to provide directional information, and

c) pushbutton information messages, which provide information about the street names, and special signalization or geometric situations.

It may be possible to add some information about the time available to either the pushbutton information message or to the audible equivalent to the WALK, but no research has yet been done to determine the best way to accomplish this. There are concerns about how to accomplish this technically, because the time available may change, in the computer-controlled world of traffic signals, and the audible messages are not currently immediately changeable.

Be sure to read the Modern intersections chapter so you have a better knowledge of what’s going on at the intersection.


Accessible Pedestrian Signals: A Guide to Best Practice,

Barlow, J.M., and Franck, L. (2005) “Crossroads: Modern interactive intersections and Accessible Pedestrian Signals”. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness. Vol. 99, (10), 599-610.)

Scott, A.C., Barlow, J. M., Bentzen, B.L., Bond, T.L.Y. and Grubbe, D. (2008) Accessible Pedestrian Signals at complex intersections: Effects on blind pedestrians. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, No. 2073, 94–103.

Crossing Where There Is No Traffic Control

Dona Sauerburger, COMS
Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist

This chapter talks about making street crossings where there is no signal and no stop sign, i.e., no traffic control”) for the street you want to cross. That would be places like:

· crossings where there is a stop sign for the street beside you, but not for the street you want to cross

· separate right-turning lanes at signalized intersections – that is, lanes where the drivers can turn right and avoid the signal. There is usually a triangular island between the lane and the rest of the intersection, and you have to cross the unsignalized lane to reach the island, then cross the rest of the street using the signal.

· roundabouts, which do not require drivers to stop except to yield to vehicles in the circle or pedestrians in the crosswalk

In each of these situations, in addition to figuring out where to stand and which way to face, you must figure out:

§ whether you can tell when it is appropriate or safe to cross;

§ whether it is too risky;

§ what alternatives you have if you decide it is too risky

These questions are the ones we will attempt to address here.

How does one know when to cross?

To cross where there is no traffic control, you should cross when either:

· there is a GAP in traffic long enough to cross …
… that is, there are no vehicles approaching that are close enough or fast enough that they could reach you before you finish your crossing (a “gap in traffic” means the space / time before another vehicle will arrive). .

· you’re confident that ALL drivers have yielded or will yield

Let’s talk about these two options, i.e., (crossing during a gap, and relying on drivers to yield).

Crossing during a sufficient gap in traffic:

In order to know when there is a gap in traffic that is long enough to cross, you need to be able to hear (or see, if you’re using vision) all the vehicles far enough away to know that when you hear nothing coming, there is no vehicle that can reach you before you finish the crossing.

You need to realize that there are many situations where you can’t know it’s clear to cross because either

§ the sound of the approaching vehicles just can’t be heard well enough, even when it is quiet, for example if sound is blocked by a hill or bend in the road, a parked truck, etc.

Traditionally, we have believed that we can always hear traffic well enough to know it is clear to cross whenever it is quiet. Research has shown that in some cases this is still true: At some streets, volunteer research subjects who were blind or visually impaired could hear all the cars well enough to know when it was clear to cross when quiet (Wall Emerson and Sauerburger, 2008).

But this same research found that at some places, even along narrow residential streets when it was very quiet, none of the participants who were blind were able to hear cars until they were just a few seconds away. If they had started to cross before they heard the cars – while it was still quiet – the vehicles would have reached them before they finished crossing.


§ there is too much noise (“ambient sound”) that masks the sound of the vehicles.

For example, the sound of one car going away can keep you from hearing other vehicles approaching. The research of Wall Emerson and Sauerburger (2008) indicated that for being able to hear cars, the loudness of the car is less important than the level of ambient sound. That is, even slight noise from airplanes, distant lawnmowers, or receding cars made participants who were blind unable to hear even some of the louder vehicles until they were just a few seconds away.

It is important that you be able to recognize whether or not you can hear or see the traffic well enough to know it is clear to cross. A procedure for teaching/ learning to make this judgment is at Self-Study Guide: Preparing Visually Impaired Students to Assess and Cross Streets with No Stop Sign or Traffic -Signal Procedure to Develop Judgment of the Detection of Traffic

If you cross streets where you cannot hear or see the traffic well enough to know it is clear to cross, then there is a risk. The danger is that as you start your crossing, there may be a vehicle approaching that you can’t hear or see which will have to slow down or stop to avoid hitting you. In some cases, this risk will be very low, such as at narrow streets with very little traffic, where you are visible from a distance and the drivers are expecting people to cross. In other cases the risk will be very high, such as at wide streets with fast, heavy traffic where you can’t hear the vehicles more than a few seconds away.

How do I know if it is okay to cross, and what alternatives do I have?

Each situation can be analyzed, to determine how much risk there is in crossing. Can you hear (or see) far enough to know when it’s clear to cross, or does the traffic seem to “appear” unexpectedly, too close and fast? Is there a lot of traffic, and is it moving fast or slow? Are there lots of pedestrians so the drivers are expecting people to cross there? Do you have the right of way there, according to the laws in your state or local community?

Crossing when expecting drivers to yield

If you cannot tell when it is clear to cross, one alternative is to cross with the expectation that drivers will stop or slow down for you. Research has verified what you probably already know: You can’t always rely on drivers to stop for you, even when you are using a white cane or traveling with a dog guide. When they do stop, you may not always even know that they are there.

Generally, drivers are less likely to stop for pedestrians when the vehicles are traveling fast, or pedestrians are not expected or not visible, or don’t have the right of way, or when roads are slippery because of ice or rain, and/or visibility is low because of rain, darkness or fog. Carrying a white cane and holding it where the drivers can see it can sometimes make it more likely that they will stop, and in other cases it makes little or no difference.   The drivers may be more likely to see the cane if you move it, for example moving it up and down (being careful not to endanger other pedestrians) or moving the tip along the ground in front of you in an arc like you do when walking.  Drivers will be more likely to understand that you intend to cross if you lean forward and/or put one foot in the street (many states do not provide the right of way to pedestrians unless they have a foot in the street).

Risky situation

You are in a particularly dangerous situation if you are crossing more than one lane and are relying on drivers to yield. Drivers who have stopped for you in one lane can make it impossible for drivers in other lanes to see you and your white cane or guide dog. You are not visible until you have stepped into their lane and are crossing in front of them. At the same time, the sound of the vehicle waiting for you can make it impossible for you to hear other vehicles, including vehicles coming in the next lanes.

This is exactly what happened when a blind man, his guide dog, and his visually impaired wife crossed 3 lanes one night in Wheaton, Maryland. A car in the second lane stopped for them, and another driver pulled around that car and didn’t see the couple. The vehicle was just a few feet away from the couple and they stepped in front of it. All three of them were killed.


If you feel that the danger of crossing is too great for you to accept the risk, you can consider alternatives, such as those listed at Self-Study Guide: Preparing Visually Impaired Students to Assess and Cross Streets with No Stop Sign or Traffic- Alternatives When Crossing is Too Risky . For long-term solutions, there are many ways that transportation professional can revise risky crossings to be more safe for all pedestrians – there are examples at Self-Study Guide: Preparing Visually Impaired Students to Assess and Cross Streets with No Stop Sign or Traffic- Environmental Modifications to Improve Crossings with No Traffic Control

Roundabout description sidebar:

Typically, intersections have two perpendicular streets crossing each other. Each street approaches the intersection from two directions, meaning that the intersection has streets approaching from 4 directions. The approaching street is called a “leg”, with a corner between each of the 4 legs. If you walk toward the intersection along any of the legs, you’ll come to a corner where another street (leg) meets the intersection. Traffic engineers (TE) typically call this a “4-way intersection” or “right angle intersection” while certified orientation and mobility specialists (COMS) may call it a “plus” intersection.

At roundabouts, the two streets don’t cross each other because there is a large round/circular island in the middle of the intersection (the island is wider than each street). Drivers have to go around this island. They drive in a counter-clockwise direction, always keeping the island to their left.

So instead of meeting and crossing each other, each leg of the intersection approaches and leads into the circular roadway going around the island. This is usually called the circulatory roadway. Drivers who want to continue on one street (let’s call it Main Street) have to approach the roundabout, go around the circulatory roadway until they reach the other side, and leave the roundabout where the other leg of Main Street connects to the circulatory roadway.

Each street that enters the circulatory roadway has a divider (a “splitter island”) along the middle of the street, dividing the traffic that approaches the roundabout from the traffic that comes out. The divider or splitter island usually starts 1-4 car lengths (about 15-60 feet) from the circulatory roadway and extends to the edge of the circulatory roadway. The splitter island is usually just a few inches wide at the end furthest from the circle. The island widens up to 20 to 30 feet near the circulatory roadway. As the island gets wider, so does the street.

The crosswalk for each street is not where the street meets the circle. Instead, the crosswalk is about one or two car-lengths away from the circle. That is, if cars come along one street and stop at the circle, the crosswalk will usually be behind the first or second car. The crosswalk usually has a curb ramp at each end, and cuts through the splitter island in the middle. You may walk through the splitter island without realizing it if there is no curb or detectable warning where the crosswalk goes through it.

What is a roundabout like when you walk around it?

Let’s say you are walking along one street, which we’ll call Main Street, approaching the roundabout with Main Street on your left side. Main Street begins to get wider and wider, making you turn more and more to the right. Before you reach the circulatory roadway, you may find a curb ramp on your left for the crosswalk across Main Street. By the time you reach the circulatory roadway, you have turned so much that the circle is beside you, and you are walking around it. There is no corner where Main Street meets the circulatory roadway. As you continue walking, you will be gradually turning more to the right and leaving the circle along the right side of the other street, which we’ll call “Apple Street.” There is no corner where Apple Street meets the circulatory roadway either.

What does the traffic sound like?

As you first walk along Main Street toward the circle, you’ll hear the traffic beside you on Main Street, going in both directions. The traffic in the circle has the right of way, so the traffic on Main Street may slow down or stop when it reaches the circulatory roadway. Then the traffic surges forward to enter the circle whenever there is a gap in the turning traffic. As you approach the roundabout, you may be able to notice that the traffic on the other side of Main Street (coming out of the circulatory roadway) is sounding further and further away from you, because the splitter island between you and that traffic is getting wider and wider.

If you can hear traffic going around the circle, it may at first sound like it is far ahead of you. As you get closer, the circle traffic gradually sounds more and more to your left side. When you are actually walking along the circle, the traffic will be on your left, but you may notice that it isn’t going straight, it is going around a circle. Often the middle of the circle has landscaping or a mound, so you can’t hear the traffic on the other side of the circle well.

Where do you cross a roundabout?

The crosswalk to cross the street beside you (Main Street) is going to be about 20 to 30 feet before you get to the circulatory roadway. To continue straight ahead on Main Street, you have to curve around the circle and follow the sidewalk as it leaves the roundabout along Apple Street. Look for a sidewalk or curb ramp on your left. Turn left to cross Apple, then turn to the left and return back to the roundabout, continuing along the sidewalk until you are once again walking alongside Main Street, leaving the roundabout.


Sauerberger, Dona and Robert Wall Emerson. “Detecting Approaching Vehicles
At Streets with No Traffic Control.” Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness. December, 2008, Vol. 102, Issue 12, 747-760.

Sauerberger, Dona. Self-Study Guide: Preparing Visually Impaired Students to Assess and Cross Streets with No Stop Sign or Traffic

Regulations Related to Accessible Public Rights-of-Way

Why are regulations important to pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired?

You may recognize that you have trouble crossing at a particular crosswalk. You may have figured out what the problem is, and have decided that there is no way you can modify your travel strategy to make it safe for you to cross at that location. There just may not be enough information. So you decide that if there was some change in the intersection geometry or signalization you could cross successfully. “Intersection geometry” is the term transportation professionals use when they are talking about any aspect of how the intersection is shaped, such as width of the street, location of curb ramps, location of crosswalks, location of pushbuttons, or presence and location of islands. “Signalization” includes characteristics like the length of the walk interval , i.e., when you should start crossing; whether or not a button push is needed to actuate the timing of the "Walk" sign , without which the time interval before perpendicular traffic gets a green light is long enough only for vehicles, not pedestrians; whether there is a left turn phase; whether there is a “leading pedestrian interval,” during which pedestrians can start crossing before the parallel traffic is permitted to start; whether all traffic stops during the pedestrian phase; whether a signal provides enough time for pedestrians to cross an entire wide street, or only get to a center island where there is another pushbutton; or whether there is or is not a signal to cross a channelized turn lane. Both intersection geometry and signalization have become very complex in the last 20 years.

When you decide that you want to request a change in intersection geometry and/or signalization, for example, installation of an accessible pedestrian signal (APS), detectable warnings, a pushbutton in a good location, or a longer crossing time, you are more likely to get a positive response if you can clearly, completely and accurately state the requirements that support your request.

The key person or people in your jurisdiction to whom you direct your request will have a much easier time responding positively if your request is in line with existing requirements and you can point out what those requirements are and where they can be found. Especially in smaller jurisdictions TEs may have limited familiarity with applicable requirements, so in a subtle way you may actually need to provide education. First of all, you need to persuade the transportation professional that what you request is reasonable, possible, and permissible, and then, the transportation professional will need to persuade the people to whom he or she reports that granting your request is the right course of action. You can make the transportation professional's job easier by providing the information the transportation professional needs to support the request.

Another reason it is important for you to gain an understanding about specific requirements is that if you make a request for an alteration or accommodation that is not supported by some requirement, for example, in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), , the transportation professional can easily dismiss your request because it’s not “in the book.” Therefore, it is in your best interest to learn as much as you can about all the requirements that are applicable to your situation before you make a request. transportation professionals are understandably concerned about the liability of the jurisdiction if a request is granted that, despite making your life easier or safer, can be claimed to have caused an accident negatively affecting someone else's safety. If the change is not supported by specific requirements, the jurisdiction may lose the case.

There’s no getting around it. You have to delve into the tedious, puzzling, changeable world of guidelines and standards. This chapter will help you know where to go and what to look for so you can educate yourself. However this chapter cannot provide all the information you will need because all guidelines and standards are “living documents,” which are updated periodically. The guidelines and standards in this chapter will soon be out of date, and you will need to see what the current guidelines and standards are before deciding to refer to them or to refer to subsequent versions.

Laws are the basis of your right to accessible rights-of-way

It is laws, also called “implementing regulations,” that establish your right to an environment that is accessible. Just how the environment is to be made accessible is articulated in guidelines and standards. These will be discussed in the next section.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 amended 29 USC Section 794 Public Law 105-220 was the first law to establish the civil rights of people with disabilities to accessible programs and facilities. Traveling on public rights-of-way, including crossing streets, is a “program” provided by state and local governments. This “program” includes the facilities that the program requires, such as intersections. Section 504 is applicable to programs and facilities that receive Federal assistance. Almost every local highway agency relies upon U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) dollars, either directly or indirectly, for roads, sidewalks, signals, and related facilities. The Rehab Act coverage is well-recognized where there is direct project funding, but many people don’t realize that any Federal funding binds the jurisdiction for all of its programs and projects.

Under the Rehab Act, the Federal agency that provides the funds is responsible for enforcement. For pedestrian facilities generally, it is the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); for pedestrian facilities at transit systems, it is the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Each has an Office of Civil Rights where questions and complaints can be submitted.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA extended the civil rights of people with disabilities to programs and facilities that do not receive Federal aid. Title II of the ADA is the portion of that law that applies to public streets and sidewalks, identified as public rights-of-way. Title II 28 CFR Part 35 requires that state and local governments make their services, programs and activities (including facilities such as street crossings) accessible to people with disabilities. The ADA requires that new construction and alterations be completed according to high standards of accessibility. When street crossings meet the standards for accessibility developed by the US Access Board, they are considered to be accessible.

Title II is enforced by the Department of Justice (DOJ), but the DOJ will often refer a case on pedestrian accessibility to DOT, and particularly to FHWA, because those agencies are already enforcing their own Section 504 (Rehab Act) regulations.

The ADA requirement for program access can apply even to intersections that are not scheduled to be changed if you find that you are unable to cross there safely.

Program access is not tied to design and construction standards. Where an existing program or facility (such as an intersection) is not usable by a person with a disability, agencies must provide a solution. A range of approaches is permissible. At pedestrian crossings, an APS is usually the best solution for people with visual impairments who have trouble knowing when it is safe to begin to cross, but other solutions can include changes to vehicle turning phases or sequences (so that pedestrians can reliably tell the onset of the WALK signal by the surge of parallel through traffic in the near lane), installation of a more usable crossing nearby, or extending the pedestrian crossing time.

Most program access solutions are operational and don’t approach the high degree of convenient access called for in new construction. And a city can assert cost and difficulty limits.

Standards applicable to public-rights-of way--and some provisions related to making public rights-of-way accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired

Standards are developed to provide the technical information about how jurisdictions are to meet the legal requirements of the ADA and Section 504. When the standards are adopted they become enforceable, within the time-frame stated in the standard. Standards are always subject to periodic review, so they are “living documents.” That means that they are often in some stage of revision, so be sure to get the most up-to-date information you can about a particular standard you wish to use in any request for access. Particularly relevant sections of some standards current at the time of publication are included in the attachments at the end of this chapter, but before quoting them, you should be sure they are still current by checking the website where you can find each one.

Whenever any kind of Federal standard is developed, it must be published in the Federal Register as a “Notice of Proposed Rule-Making,” or “Notice of Proposed Amendment.”

After the publication, there is always a public comment period. Public comments must be taken seriously by the agency developing the standard, and if you think a standard is not good enough, it is important to make your opinion known during this phase of development by submitting a comment in writing to the agency developing the standard. The proposed standard must be revised taking into account consideration of all the comments before it is published as a “Final Rule.”

Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) and Americans with Disabilities Act and Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Guidelines (New ADAAG).

ADAAG was published by the Access Board in 1991 ( and subsequently adopted as a standard by the DOJ (, and by the DOT. Guidelines published by the US Access Board become enforceable when they are adopted as standards by enforcing agencies.

A principle of ADA standards is that they apply to new construction and alterations. These standards are not retro-active to existing facilities.

The DOJ enforces most sections of ADAAG, however the DOT enforces provisions that relate to transportation, including public transportation and public rights-of-way.

The ADAAG included few provisions related to accessibility of public rights-of-way for people with visual impairments, however it did include specifications for truncated dome detectable warnings and required that they be placed at transit platform edges and the full surface curb ramps, excluding the flares, if any. (Barlow and Bentzen, 1994 and 1995).

The requirement for detectable warnings at transit platform edges was relatively well-received, and all rail transit properties began the process of installing detectable warnings at the edges of transit platforms.

However, the requirement for detectable warnings at curb ramps was controversial, and was suspended from 1998 to 2001, while further research was conducted that confirmed that people who are blind do walk down curb ramps and into the street without realizing that they are doing so, and without preparing to cross the street. This research also indicated that a 24 inch minimum depth of the detectable warning at the bottom of curb ramps, was enough to enable people who are blind to detect the warning and come to a stop before stepping into a dangerous situation.

When the suspension expired in 2001, detectable warnings were required to be installed on the bottom 24 inches of curb ramps.

The Access Board revised ADAAG and published New ADAAG on July 23, 2004 . New ADAAG, officially titled the “ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines,” extends the requirements of ADAAG to include private properties such as campuses, medical centers, and shopping centers. There is still little that is specifically related to making public rights-of-way accessible to people who are visually impaired, however.

New ADAAG includes the specifications for detectable warnings but requires them only at transit platform edges.

New ADAAG, renamed as the “ADA Standards for Transportation Facilities”, was adopted by the DOT on October 30th, 2006 with an effective date of November 29th, 2006. (

When the DOT adopted New ADAAG as its standard they added a provision that is important to people with visual impairments. DOT added a requirement that curb ramps have detectable warnings. (

“406.8 Detectable Warnings. A curb ramp shall have a detectable warning complying with 705 [the specifications for the truncated dome surface texture]. The detectable warning shall extend the full width of the curb ramp (exclusive of flared sides) and shall extend either the full depth of the curb ramp or 24 inches (610 mm) deep minimum measured from the back of the curb on the ramp surface.”

Attachment A, taken from the preamble to the ADA Standards for Transportation Facilities as published in the Federal Register 49CFR Part 37, is the DOT’s rationale for adding the requirement for detectable warnings on curb ramps. It is helpful reading for people who would like to have more background on the issue of detectable warnings.

The new ADAAG was adopted as the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design on July 23, 2010 by the DOJ and was published in the Federal Register on September 15th, 2010. Compliance with the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design is permitted as of September 15, 2010, but NOT REQUIRED until March 15, 2012.

Remember that the rulemaking process will result in changes to either the content or the status of these regulations from time to time, and although we intend to update our text to reflect these changes when they are made, readers should periodically check the website of the Access Board themselves to see the most current information. Simply go to

Draft Public Rights-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines and Revised Draft Guidelines for Accessible Public Rights-of-Way

At the time of this writing, no standards specifically for making public rights-of-way accessible had been adopted by the DOJ or DOT.

The Access Board released “Draft Public Rights-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines,” on June 17, 2002, with major input from the Public Rights-of-Way Access Advisory Committee (PROWAAC), which included Janet Barlow, Pat Beattie, Melanie Brunson, Julie Carroll, Charles Crawford, Peggy Pinder Elliott, Lukas Franck, Scott LaBarre, and Ken Stewart as representatives of various groups related to blindness.

The initial draft received many public comments, was revised, and released as the “Revised Draft Guidelines for Accessible Public Rights-of-Way” (subsequently referred to as Draft PROWAG) on November 23, 2005 ( ).

In 2006, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a statement that Draft PROWAG is to be considered best practice for making public rights-of-way accessible. ( ). (See Attachment B for a copy of that statement.)

Draft PROWAG includes specifications for detectable warnings and gives detailed information regarding their installation on curb ramps and on blended curbs, including at street corners, at cut-through islands and medians, and in front of buildings. It also has sections on accessible pedestrian signals (APS), roundabouts, channelized turn lanes, protruding objects, channelizing devices and barriers, and tactile and print signs. With the exception of the section on APS, these sections of Draft PROWAG can be found in Attachment C. The section on APS has been omitted because it is likely to be changed to be more consistent with the text in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) December 2009. The APS specifications in MUTCD 2009 can be found in Attachment D.

Remember that as Draft PROWAG proceeds through the rule-making process it may be changed.

On July 26, 2011 the U.S. Access Board released the “Proposed Accessibility Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right-of-Way” for a four month review comment period.

The proposed guidelines can be accessed, and comments to them submitted or viewed, through the Federal government's rulemaking portal at Instructions for submitting comments are included in the proposal. The deadline for comments is November 23, 2011. The Board will hold public hearings on the guidelines in Dallas on September 12 and in Washington, D.C. on November 9.

Further information on this rulemaking is available on the rights-of-way homepage or by contacting Scott Windley at, (202) 272-0025 (v), or (202) 272-0028 (TTY).

As with any rule, it is important during the comment period to submit specific written comments about both things you like, and things you would like to have changed.

Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).

The MUTCD is the standard used by TEs for making decisions about traffic control devices. As mentioned above, at the time of this writing, there are no enforceable technical standards under the ADA for public rights-of-way. However, the FHWA has made it clear that they take accessibility seriously, and many technical specifications for making crossings accessible to people with visual impairments are included in their MUTCD.

Traffic control devices include not only signals, but also signs, markings, and temporary traffic control at construction sites. At the time of this writing, the 2009 MUTCD applies.

The currently applicable MUTCD can be found at in both pdf and HTML versions.

It is important to know that states also have their own versions of a manual of traffic control devices, though they may go by different names. The state manuals are supposed to be brought into compliance with the FHWA MUTCD within two years of its release. They cannot require less than the MUTCD, but may be a little different. Generally referring to the MUTCD will provide sufficient support for any specific request for which you are advocating.

Some of the provisions of the MUTCD are Standards, that is, they must be followed; they are stated in “shall” language. Some of the provisions are Guidance, that is, they must be followed unless the transportation professional can provide good reasons for doing something different; they are stated in “should” language. (Needless to say, information needs of pedestrians with visual impairments are not well-understood by transportation professionals. Well-meaning transportation professionals may implement design and operational characteristics that do not succeed in providing the needed information, because they think they have a better idea about what people with visual impairments may actually need.) Other provisions are expressed as Options, that is they provide a variety of ways to accomplish the same thing, and it is up to the transportation professional to decide which option is best in a particular situation.

The MUTCD provides Support paragraphs to help transportation professionals understand the reasons behind certain provisions.

Since 2000, the MUTCD has included some specifications for APS. With each edition, these have been refined on the basis of research indicating what kind of hardware, operational characteristics and installation result in providing the clearest, most accurate, and unambiguous information to pedestrians with visual impairments.

Some of the provisions that started out as Guidance are now Standards. At the time of this writing, the most comprehensive technical specifications for APS are in the MUTCD 2009. Therefore we recommend that you use the 2009 addition of the MUTCD which includes specific features and functions as the basis upon which you rely for requesting installation of APS.

The sections of the MUTCD 2009 applicable to APS may be found in Attachment D.

The MUTCD does not have any requirement for detectable warnings at curb ramps. At the time of this writing, the most comprehensive technical specifications for detectable warnings, are in thePROWAG NPRM.

Therefore when requesting appropriately designed detectable warnings at curb ramps, islands and medians, and railroad crossings refer to the FHWA directive (Attachment A) For now, consider that Draft PROWAG best practice.

In Attachment C you can find the sections of Draft PROWAG on detectable warnings.

The MUTCD includes more detailed standards regarding how to make work zones accessible than Draft PROWAG, so until PROWAG is finalized and adopted as a standard by FHWA, the MUTCD is the best basis for requesting appropriate accommodations at work zones.

Basically, a cane-detectable barrier needs to be provided if there is a drop-off or if pedestrians are channeled into a detour, and accessible information should be provided in the form of an audible message if pedestrians need to detour. In Attachment D you can find the section of the MUTCD on making work zones accessible.


Whenever you want to request an accommodation to make an intersection accessible to you, first learn the current requirements. They will provide the best support for your request. Requests that are for something currently required are most likely to be successful—and helpful to the most pedestrians who are visually impaired. Requesting an APS that is different from that which is required, while it may provide enough information for you, may not provide adequate information for another pedestrian who is visually impaired. Likewise, requesting that a detectable warning be installed at a location or in a way that is not described in a requirement, while it may be helpful to you, may be misleading to other pedestrians who are visually impaired. Requesting accommodations that are different from those which are currently required will be confusing to TEs. The inconsistency in requested accommodations may lead to rejection of the request altogether, or installation of equipment that is not optimal for addressing your needs, or improper installations that do not serve most potential visually impaired pedestrians' needs.

If you think ADA standards or the MUTCD should be changed, write to the Access Board or the FHWA at any time. Keep up-to-date on the status of standards so that when there is a Notice of Proposed Rule-making or Notice of Proposed Amendments, you will be able to submit your comments at the time that the agencies are required to pay attention to them. Comments at any time should always suggest alternative language and provide a detailed rationale for the alternative language.

Attachment A—

DOT adopts New ADAAG

The portion of the preamble to the new accessibility standards for transportation that refers to the requirement for detectable warnings on curb ramps. [The entire preamble and standard can be found at]

Final Rule Adopting New Accessibility Standards -- Effective November 29, 2006

[PDF Version]
[Federal Register: October 30, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 209)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Page 63263-63267]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access []


49 CFR Part 37

[Docket OST-2006-26035]
RIN 2105-AC86

Transportation for Individuals With Disabilities; Adoption of New Accessibility Standards

AGENCY: Office of the Secretary, Department of Transportation.

ACTION: Final rule.

“The Department is also adopting language that would continue in effect the current requirements of ADAAG concerning detectable warnings at curb ramps. Detectable warnings in curb ramps have long been required by ADAAG and DOT and DOJ regulatory standards that have long been, and remain, in effect. Currently, the Access Board is working on new public rights-of-way (PROW) guidelines, the current proposed version of which would retain a detectable warnings requirement. Because the Access Board is proposing this requirement in the PROW document, the July 2004 ADAAG did not include a parallel detectable warning requirement. The unintended consequence of the relationship between the Access Board's timing with respect to the ADAAG and PROW issuances is that, if the Department adopts the new ADAAG, the current detectable warnings requirement for curb ramps would disappear, only to reappear in a few years if the current Access Board PROW proposal is adopted. (If the Access Board deletes or modifies its current proposal concerning detectable warnings in final PROW guidelines, the Department will modify part 37 accordingly.)

The Department, along with an overwhelming majority of Access Board members, believes that detectable warnings are a very useful design feature that makes the built environment safer and more accessible for persons with impaired vision. It would be undesirable, as a policy matter, to permit the Department's current detectable warnings requirement to lapse, particularly since the Department has never sought or received comment on the merits of ending this existing requirement. The Department will therefore maintain the status quo with respect to detectable warnings in this rule. Doing so will not add any burdens for regulated parties, or create any new or increased costs for them: regulated parties will just continue complying with precisely the same requirements that have applied to them (with a brief interruption during a 1998-2001 suspension of these requirements) since 1991.”

Attachment B—

FHWA memorandum making the Revised Draft Guidelines on Public Rights-of-Way best practice

U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration


Subject: INFORMATION: Public Rights-of-Way Access Advisory
Date: January 23, 2006
From: // Original signed by // Frederick D. Isler, Associate Administrator for Civil Rights
Reply to: HCR-1

To: Division Administrators; Resource Center Directors; Federal Lands Highway Division Engineers

The purpose of this notice is to inform you that the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) published revised draft accessibility guidelines (the Draft Guidelines) for public rights-of-way in the Federal Register on November 23, 2005. The Draft Guidelines are available at They cover pedestrian access to sidewalks and streets, including crosswalks, curb ramps, street furnishings, pedestrian signals, parking, and other components of public rights-of-way.

The Access Board published the Draft Guidelines to incorporate public comment received in response to the draft guidelines published in June 2002. The Access Board placed these revised draft guidelines on its website ( for public information. The Draft Guidelines are under consideration by the Board, and the Board could change these guidelines in its final rule.

The purpose of placing the Draft Guidelines in the docket is to facilitate gathering of additional information for the regulatory assessment and the preparation of technical assistance materials to accompany a future rule. The Board is not seeking comments on the Draft Guidelines. The Board will issue a notice of proposed rulemaking at a future date and will solicit comments at that time, prior to issuing a final rule.

The Draft Guidelines are not standards until adopted by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Transportation. The present standards to be followed are the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) standards. However, the Draft Guidelines are the currently recommended best practices, and can be considered the state of the practice that could be followed for areas not fully addressed by the present ADAAG standards. Further, the Draft Guidelines are consistent with the ADA's requirement that all new facilities (and altered facilities to the maximum extent feasible) be designed and constructed to be accessible to and useable by people with disabilities.

The FHWA is responsible for implementation of pedestrian access requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504). This is accomplished through stewardship and oversight over all Federal, State, and local governmental agencies that build and maintain highways and roadways, whether or not they use Federal funds on a particular project.

Please distribute this information to the States, and work with the States to distribute these revised draft guidelines widely.

FHWA Point of Contact: Ms. Lisa MacPhee, Attorney-Advisor, Office of Chief Counsel (202) 366-1392, and Ms. Candace Groudine, Special Assistant to the Associate Administrator for Civil Rights (202)-366-4634.

To provide Feedback, Suggestions, or Comments for this page contact John C. Fegan at

See original memorandum at

Attachment C

Draft PROWAG--Sections related to accessibility for people who are visually impaired

[The sections on APS are not included here because the APS sections of the MUTCD are more comprehensive. The Draft PROWAG, including a discussion of provisions, and technical assistance questions and answers, can be found at]

Chapter R2: scoping Requirements

R206 Pedestrian Crossings

Where a pedestrian street or rail track crossing is provided, it shall contain a pedestrian access route complying with R301 and the applicable provisions of R305. Where a pedestrian rail crossing is not contained within a street or highway, a detectable warning shall be provided in compliance with R304.

Advisory R206 Pedestrian Crossings. When tracks are located in a street or highway that has a pedestrian route, the detectable warnings at the curb ramps make a second set of detectable warnings at the rail unnecessary in most applications. When rail tracks are not associated with a street or highway, they must have detectable warnings across the pedestrian access route on either side.

R207 Curb Ramps and Blended Transitions

A curb ramp or blended transition complying with R303, or a combination of curb ramps and blended transitions, shall connect the pedestrian access route to each pedestrian street crossing within the width of each crosswalk.

R208 Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS)

Where pedestrian signals are provided at pedestrian street crossings, they shall comply with R306.

[Section R306 is not contained in this attachment. The Draft PROWAG is likely to be revised to be consistent with the MUTCD 2009 sections on APS, which are provided in Attachment D.]

R209 Protruding Objects

Protruding objects along or overhanging any portion of a pedestrian circulation path shall comply with R401 and shall not reduce the clear width required for pedestrian access routes.

Advisory R209 Protruding Objects. Banners, awnings, tree branches, and temporary street or highway signs may also be hazards if not placed or maintained properly.

R210 Pedestrian Signs

R210.1 General. Signs designed primarily for pedestrian use shall comply with R210.R210.2 Bus Route Identification. Bus route identification signs shall comply with R409.5.1 through R409.5.4, and R409.5.7 and R409.5.8. In addition, to the maximum extent practicable, bus route identification signs shall comply with R409.5.5. Bus route identification signs located at bus shelters shall provide raised and braille characters complying with R409.2, and shall have rounded corners. Signs shall not be required to comply with R409.2 where audible signs are user- or proximity-actuated or are remotely transmitted to a portable receiver carried by an individual. Bus schedules, timetables and maps that are posted at the bus stop or bus shelter are not required to comply.

R210.3 Directional, Informational, and Warning Signs. Directional, informational, and warning signs shall comply with R409.5.

Advisory R210.3 Directional, Informational, and Warning Signs. This provision applies legibility criteria to text signs. Examples of covered signs include, but are not limited to, sidewalk closure and pedestrian detour signing required by MUTCD, tourist information signing, and pedestrian route signing along an historic trail. Standard highway street-name signage is not covered by this part.

Braille identification of street names is a required feature where APS are provided (see R306).

A proximity-,-user-, or button-activated audible sign can provide this information in audible formats for pedestrians who don’t read print. Such devices are now being manufactured for rights-of-way applications.

R221 Detectable Warning Surfaces

Detectable warning surfaces shall comply with R304.

Advisory R221 Detectable Warning Surfaces. Detectable warning surfaces are required where curb ramps, blended transitions, or landings provide a flush pedestrian connection to the street. Sidewalk crossings of residential driveways should not generally be provided with detectable warnings, since the pedestrian right-of-way continues across most driveway aprons and overuse of detectable warning surfaces should be avoided in the interests of message clarity. However, where commercial driveways are provided with traffic control devices or otherwise are permitted to operate like public streets, detectable warnings should be provided at the junction between the pedestrian route and the street.

Chapter R3: Technical Provisions

R302 Alternate Circulation Path

R302.1 General. Alternate circulation paths shall comply with R302 and shall contain a pedestrian access route complying with R301.

Advisory R302.1 General. Temporary routes are alterations to an existing developed pedestrian environment and are required to achieve the maximum accessibility feasible under existing conditions.

R302.2 Location. To the maximum extent feasible, the alternate circulation path shall be provided on the same side of the street as the disrupted route.

Advisory R302.2 Location. Where it is not feasible to provide a same-side alternate circulation path and pedestrians will be detoured, section 6D.02 of the MUTCD specifies that the alternate path provide a similar level of accessibility to that of the existing disrupted route. This may include the incorporation of accessible pedestrian signals (APS), curb ramps, or other accessibility features.

R302.4 Pedestrian Barricades and Channelizing Devices. Pedestrian barricades and channelizing devices shall be continuous, stable, and non-flexible and shall consist of a wall, fence, or enclosures specified in section 6F-58, 6F-63, and 6F-66 of the MUTCD (incorporated by reference; see R104.2.4).

R302.4.1 Detectable Base. A continuous bottom edge shall be provided 150 mm (6 in) maximum above the ground or walkway surface.

R302.4.2 Height. Devices shall provide a continuous surface or upper rail at 0.9 m (3.0 ft) minimum above the ground or walkway surface. Support members shall not protrude into the alternate circulation path.

R303 Curb Ramps and Blended Transitions

R303.1 General. Curb ramps and blended transitions shall comply with R303.

Advisory R303.1 General. Curb ramps can be a key source of wayfinding information for pedestrians who travel without vision cues if they are installed in-line with the direction of pedestrian travel at crossings. This is most easily accomplished by locating the ramp at the tangent point of the curb return, using either a small curb radius in an attached sidewalk or, in larger radii, a border or setback from the street edge. The Institute of Transportation Engineers ( has undertaken an industry-wide effort to develop and standardize intersection plans that optimize wayfinding. The challenge for practitioners is to provide usability for pedestrians in wheelchairs and scooters with a rectangular ramp plan that can also be directional.

R303.3.2 Detectable Warnings. Detectable warning surfaces complying with R304 shall be provided, where a curb ramp, landing, or blended transition connects to a street.

R304 Detectable Warning Surfaces

R304.1 General. Detectable warnings shall consist of a surface of truncated domes aligned in a square or radial grid pattern and shall comply with R304.

R304.1.1 Dome Size. Truncated domes in a detectable warning surface shall have a base diameter of 23 mm (0.9 in) minimum to 36 mm (1.4 in) maximum, a top diameter of 50 percent of the base diameter minimum to 65 percent of the base diameter maximum, and a height of 5 mm (0.2 in).

Advisory R304.1.1 Dome Size. Where domes are arrayed radially, they may differ in diameter within the ranges specified.

R304.1.2 Dome Spacing. Truncated domes in a detectable warning surface shall have a center-to-center spacing of 41 mm (1.6 in) minimum and 61 mm (2.4 in) maximum, and a base-to-base spacing of 17 mm (0.65 in) minimum, measured between the most adjacent domes.

Advisory R304.1.2 Dome Spacing. Where domes are arrayed radially, they may differ in center-to-center spacing within the range specified.

R304.1.3 Contrast. Detectable warning surfaces shall contrast visually with adjacent gutter, street or highway, or walkway surfaces, either light-on-dark or dark-on-light.

Advisory R304.1.3 Contrast. Contrast may be provided on the full ramp surface but should not extend to the flared sides. Many pedestrians use the visual contrast at the toe of the ramp to locate the curb ramp opening from the other side of the street.

R304.1.4 Size. Detectable warning surfaces shall extend 610 mm (24 in) minimum in the direction of travel and the full width of the curb ramp (exclusive of flares), the landing, or the blended transition.

R304.2 Location and Alignment

R304.2.1 Perpendicular Curb Ramps. Where both ends of the bottom grade break complying with R303.3.4 are 1.5 m (5.0 ft) or less from the back of curb, the detectable warning shall be located on the ramp surface at the bottom grade break. Where either end of the bottom grade break is more than 1.5 m (5.0 ft) from the back of curb, the detectable warning shall be located on the lower landing.

Advisory R304.2.1 Perpendicular Curb Ramps. Detectable warnings are intended to provide a tactile equivalent underfoot of the visible curbline; those placed too far from the street edge because of a large curb radius may compromise effective crossing analysis.

R304.2.2 Landings and Blended Transitions. The detectable warning shall be located on the landing or blended transition at the back of curb.

R304.2.3 Alignment. The rows of truncated domes in a detectable warning surface shall be aligned to be perpendicular or radial to the grade break between the ramp, landing, or blended transition and the street.

Advisory R304.2.3 Alignment. Where a ramp, landing, or blended transition provides access to the street continuously around a corner, the vertical rows of truncated domes in a detectable warning surface should be aligned to be perpendicular or radial to the grade break between the ramp and the street for a 1.2 meter-wide (4.0 ft) width for each crosswalk served.

R304.2.3 Rail Crossings. The detectable warning surface shall be located so that the edge nearest the rail crossing is 1.8 m (6 ft) minimum and 4.6 m (15 ft) maximum from the centerline of the nearest rail. The rows of truncated domes in a detectable warning surface shall be aligned to be parallel with the direction of wheelchair travel.

R305 Pedestrian Crossings

R305.3 Pedestrian Signal Phase Timing. All pedestrian signal phase timing shall be calculated using a pedestrian walk speed of 1.1 m/s (3.5 ft/s) maximum. The crosswalk distance used in calculating pedestrian signal phase timing shall include the entire length of the crosswalk.

R305.4 Medians and Pedestrian Refuge Islands. Medians and pedestrian refuge islands in crosswalks shall comply with R305.4 and shall contain a pedestrian access route, including passing space, complying with R301 and connecting to each crosswalk.

R305.4.1 Length. Medians and pedestrian refuge islands shall be 1.8 m (6.0 ft) minimum in length in the direction of pedestrian travel.

Advisory R305.4.1 Length. The edges of cut-throughs and curb ramps are useful as cues to the direction of a crossing. This should be considered when planning an angled route through a median or island. Curb ramps in medians and islands can add difficulty to the crossing for some users. There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to ramp or cut-through a median or island. Those factors may include slope and cross slope of road, drainage, and width of median or island.

R305.4.2 Detectable Warnings. Medians and pedestrian refuge islands shall have detectable warnings complying with R304 at curb ramps and blended transitions. Detectable warnings at cut-through islands shall be located at the curbline in-line with the face of curb and shall be separated by a 61 cm (2.0 ft) minimum length of walkway without detectable warnings. Where the island has no curb, the detectable warning shall be located at the edge of roadway.

R305.6 Roundabout Intersections. Where pedestrian facilities are provided at roundabout intersections, they shall comply with R305.6 and shall contain a pedestrian access route complying with R301.

R305.6.1 Separation. If walkways are curb-attached, there shall be a continuous and detectable edge treatment along the street side of the walkway wherever pedestrian crossing is not intended. Where chains, fencing, or railings are used, they shall have a bottom element 38 cm (15 in) maximum above the pedestrian access route.

Advisory R305.6.1 Separation. Because the pedestrian crossings are located off to the side of the pedestrian route around the street or highway and noise from continuously circulating traffic may mask useful audible cues. Carefully delineated crosswalk approaches with plantings, low enclosures, curbs, or other defined edges can be effective in identifying the crossing location(s). European and Australian roundabout intersections extend a 6- cm (24-inch) width of tactile surface treatment from the centerline of the ramp or blended transition across the full width of the sidewalk to provide an underfoot cue. Several manufacturers make a surface of raised bars for this use. The detectable warning surface should not be used, since it indicates the edge of a street or highway.

Schemes that remove cyclists from the circulating street or highway by means of a ramp that angles from the curb lane to the sidewalk and then provide re-entry by means of a similar ramp beyond the pedestrian crossing may provide false cues about the location of a crossing to pedestrians who are using the edge of the sidewalk for wayfinding. Designers should consider ways to mitigate this hazard.

R305.6.2 Signals. At roundabouts with multi-lane crossings, a pedestrian activated signal complying with R306 shall be provided for each segment of each crosswalk, including the splitter island. Signals shall clearly identify which crosswalk segment the signal serves.

Advisory R305.6.2 Signals. There are many suitable demand signals for this application. Crossings at some roundabout intersections in Australia and the United Kingdom incorporate such systems, in which the driver first sees a flashing amber signal upon pedestrian activation and then a solid red while the pedestrian crosses to the splitter island (there is no green). These types of signals are also used in some U.S. cities at pedestrian crossings of arterial street or highways. The pedestrian pushbutton should be identifiable by a locator tone, and an accessible pedestrian signal incorporated to provide audible and vibrotactile notice of the gap created by the red signal. If properly signed, it need only be used occasionally by those who do not wish to rely solely on visual gap selection.

Roundabout intersections with single-lane approach and exit legs are not required to provide signals.

R305.7 Channelized Turn Lanes at Intersections. Where pedestrian crosswalks are provided at multi-lane right or left channelized turn lanes at intersections with pedestrian signal indications, a pedestrian activated signal complying with R306 shall be provided.

Advisory R305.7 Channelized Turn Lanes at Intersections. Accessible pedestrian signal devices installed at splitter and ‘pork chop’ islands must be carefully located and separated so that signal spillover does not give conflicting information about which crossing has the WALK indication displayed.

Additional guidance on signal types is provided in Advisory R305.6.2.

R306 Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS)

R306.1 General. Pedestrian signals shall comply with R306.

R306.2 Pedestrian Signals. Each crosswalk with pedestrian signal indication shall have an accessible pedestrian signal which includes audible and vibrotactile indications of the WALK interval. Where a pedestrian pushbutton is provided, it shall be integrated into the accessible pedestrian signal and shall comply with R306.2.

[Other Draft PROWAG provisions related to APS are omitted, as they are likely to be revised to be consistent with NUTCD 2009.]

Chapter R4: Supplementary Technical Provisions

R401 Protruding Objects

R401.1 General. Protruding objects on sidewalks and other pedestrian circulation paths shall comply with R401 and shall not reduce the clear width required for pedestrian access routes.

Advisory R401.1 General. Banners, awnings, tree branches, sidewalk sculpture, and temporary street or highway signs can become protruding objects if not placed or maintained properly.

R401.2 Protrusion Limits. Objects with leading edges more than 685 mm (27 in) and not more than 2 m (80 in) above the finish surface or ground shall protrude 100 mm (4 in) maximum horizontally into the pedestrian circulation path.

R401.3 Post-Mounted Objects. Objects mounted on free-standing posts or pylons, 685 mm (27 inches) minimum and 2030 mm (80 inches) maximum above the finish surface or ground, shall overhang circulation paths 100 mm (4 inches) maximum beyond the post or pylon base measured 150 mm (6 inches) minimum above the finish surface or ground. Where a sign or other obstruction is mounted between posts or pylons and the clear distance between the posts or pylons is greater than 305 mm (12 in), the lowest edge of such sign or obstruction shall be 685 mm (27 in) maximum or 2 m (80 in) minimum above the finish surface.

R409 Signs

R409.1 General. Signs shall comply with R409. Where both visual and tactile characters are required, either one sign with both visual and tactile characters, or two separate signs, one with visual, and one with tactile characters, shall be provided.

R409.2 Raised Characters. Raised characters shall comply with R409.2 and shall be duplicated in braille complying with R409.3. Raised characters shall be installed in accordance with R409.4.

Advisory R409.2 Raised Characters. Signs that are designed to be read by touch should not have sharp or abrasive edges.

R409.2.1 Depth. Raised characters shall be 0.8 mm (.03 in) minimum above their background.

R409.2.2 Case. Characters shall be uppercase.

R409.2.3 Style. Characters shall be sans serif. Characters shall not be italic, oblique, script, highly decorative, or of other unusual forms.

R409.2.4 Character Proportions. Characters shall be selected from fonts where the width of the uppercase letter "O" is 55 percent minimum and 110 percent maximum of the height of the uppercase letter "I".

R409.2.5 Character Height. Character height measured vertically from the baseline of the character shall be 16 mm (0.625 in) minimum and 51 mm (2 in) maximum based on the height of the uppercase letter "I". Where separate raised and visual characters with the same information are provided, raised character height shall be permitted to be 13 mm (0.5 in) minimum.

R409.2.6 Stroke Thickness. Stroke thickness of the uppercase letter "I" shall be 15 percent maximum of the height of the character.

R409.2.7 Character Spacing. Character spacing shall be measured between the two closest points of adjacent raised characters within a message, excluding word spaces. Where characters have rectangular cross sections, spacing between individual raised characters shall be 3.2 mm (0.125 in) minimum and 4 times the raised character stroke width maximum. Where characters have other cross sections, spacing between individual raised characters shall be 1.6 mm (.625 in) minimum and 4 times the raised character stroke width maximum at the base of the cross sections, and 3.2 mm (0.125 in) minimum and 4 times the raised character stroke width maximum at the top of the cross sections. Characters shall be separated from raised borders and decorative elements 9.5 mm (.375 in) minimum.

R409.2.8 Line Spacing. Spacing between the baselines of separate lines of raised characters within a message shall be 135 percent minimum and 170 percent maximum of the raised character height.

R409.3 Braille. Braille shall be contracted (Grade 2) and shall comply with R409.3 and R409.4.

R409.3.1 Dimensions and Capitalization. Braille dots shall have a domed or rounded shape and shall comply with Table R409.3.1. The indication of an uppercase letter or letters shall only be used before the first word of sentences, proper nouns and names, individual letters of the alphabet, initials, and acronyms.

R409.3.1 Braille Dimensions (Table reformatted)

Measurement Range: Minimum in Millimeters to Maximum in Millimeters

Dot base diameter: 1.5 mm (0.059 in) to 1.6 mm (0.063 in)
Distance between two dots in the same cell /1/: 2.3 mm (0.090 in) to 2.5 mm (0.100 in)
Distance between corresponding dots in adjacent cells /1/: 6.1 mm (0.241 in) to 7.6 mm (0.300 in)
Dot height: 0.6 mm (0.025 in) to 0.9 mm (0.037 in)
Distance between corresponding dots from one cell directly below /1/: 10 mm (0.395 in) to 10.2 mm (0.400 in)

/1/ Measured center to center.

R409.3.2 Position. Braille shall be positioned below the corresponding text. If text is multi-lined, braille shall be placed below the entire text. Braille shall be separated 9.5 mm (.375 in) minimum from any other tactile characters and 9.5 mm (.375 in) minimum from raised borders and decorative elements. Braille provided on elevator car controls shall be separated 4.8 mm (.1875 in) minimum and shall be located either directly below or adjacent to the corresponding raised characters or symbols.

R409.4 Installation Height and Location. Signs with tactile characters shall comply with R409.4.

R409.4.1 Height Above Finish Floor or Ground. Tactile characters on signs shall be located 1.2 m (4.0 ft) minimum above the finish floor or ground surface, measured from the baseline of the lowest tactile character and 1.5 m (5.0 ft) maximum above the finish floor or ground surface, measured from the baseline of the highest tactile character. Tactile characters for elevator car controls shall not be required to comply with R409.4.1.

R409.5 Visual Characters. Visual characters shall comply with R409.5. Where visual characters comply with R409.2 and are accompanied by braille complying with R409.3, they shall not be required to comply with R409.5.2 through R409.5.9.

R409.5.1 Finish and Contrast. Characters and their background shall have a non-glare finish. Characters shall contrast with their background with either light characters on a dark background or dark characters on a light background.

Advisory R409.5.1 Finish and Contrast. Signs are more legible for persons with low vision when characters contrast as much as possible with their background. Additional factors affecting the ease with which the text can be distinguished from its background include shadows cast by lighting sources, surface glare, and the uniformity of the text and its background colors and textures.

R409.5.2 Case. Characters shall be uppercase or lowercase or a combination of both.

R409.5.3 Style. Characters shall be conventional in form. Characters shall not be italic, oblique, script, highly decorative, or of other unusual forms.

R409.5.4 Character Proportions. Characters shall be selected from fonts where the width of the uppercase letter "O" is 55 percent minimum and 110 percent maximum of the height of the uppercase letter "I".

R409.5.5 Character Height. Minimum character height shall comply with Table R409.5.5. Viewing distance shall be measured as the horizontal distance between the character and an obstruction preventing further approach towards the sign. Character height shall be based on the uppercase letter "I".

R409.5.5 Visual Character Height (table reformatted)

Height to Finish Floor or Ground From Baseline of Character: Horizontal Viewing Distance; Minimum Character Height

1.0 m (3.3 ft) to less than or equal to 1.8 m (5.8 ft): less than 1.8 m (6 ft); 16 mm (0.625 in)
1.0 m (3.3 ft) to less than or equal to 1.8 m (5.8 ft): 1.8 m (6 ft) and greater; 16 mm (0.625 in), plus 3.2 mm (0.125 in) per 0.3 m (one ft) of viewing distance above 1.8 m (6 ft)

Greater than 1.8 m (5.8 ft) to less than or equal to 3.0 m (10 ft): less than 4.6 m (15 ft); 51 mm (2 in)
Greater than 1.8 m (5.8 ft) to less than or equal to 3.0 m (10 ft): 4.6 m (15 ft) and greater; 51 mm (2 in), plus 3.2 mm (0.125 in) per 0.3 m (12 in) of viewing distance above 4.6 m (15 ft)

Greater than 3.0 m (10 ft): less than 6.4 m (21 ft); 75 mm (3 in)
Greater than 3.0 m (10 ft): 6.4 m (21 ft) and greater; 75 mm (3 in), plus 3.2 mm (0.125 in) per 0.3 m (12 in) of viewing distance above 6.4 m (21 ft)

R409.5.6 Height from Finish Floor or Ground. Visual characters shall be 1.0 m (3.25 ft) minimum above the finish floor or ground. Visual characters indicating elevator car controls shall not be required to comply with R409.5.6.

R409.5.7 Stroke Thickness. Stroke thickness of the uppercase letter "I" shall be 10 percent minimum and 30 percent maximum of the height of the character.

R409.5.8 Character Spacing. Character spacing shall be measured between the two closest points of adjacent characters, excluding word spaces. Spacing between individual characters shall be 10 percent minimum and 35 percent maximum of character height.

R409.5.9 Line Spacing. Spacing between the baselines of separate lines of characters within a message shall be 135 percent minimum and 170 percent maximum of the character height.

R414 Rail Platforms

R414.3 Detectable Warnings. Platform boarding edges not protected by platform screens or guards shall have detectable warnings complying with R304 along the full length of the public use area of the platform.

R415 Rail Station Signs

R415.1 General. Rail station signs shall comply with R415.

Advisory R415.1 General. Emerging technologies such as audible sign systems using infrared transmitters and receivers may provide greater accessibility in the transit environment than traditional braille and raised letter signs. The transmitters are placed on or next to print signs and transmit their information to an infrared receiver that is held by a person. By scanning an area, the person will hear the sign. This means that signs can be placed well out of reach of pedestrians, even on parapet walls and on walls beyond barriers. Additionally, such signs can be used to provide wayfinding information that cannot be efficiently conveyed on braille signs.

R415.2 Entrances. Where signs identify a station or its entrance, at least one sign at each entrance shall comply with R409.2 and shall be placed in uniform locations to the maximum extent practicable. Where signs identify a station that has no defined entrance, at least one sign shall comply with R409.2 and shall be placed in a central location. Tactile signs shall not be required where audible signs are remotely transmitted to hand-held receivers, or are user- or proximity-actuated.

R415.3 Routes and Destinations. Lists of stations, routes and destinations served by the station which are located on boarding areas, platforms, or mezzanines shall comply with R409.5. Signs covered by this requirement shall, to the maximum extent practicable, be placed in uniform locations within the system. Where sign space is limited, characters shall not be required to exceed 75 mm (3 in). At least one tactile sign identifying the specific station and complying with R409.2 shall be provided on each platform or boarding area. Tactile signs shall not be required where audible signs are remotely transmitted to hand-held receivers, or are user- or proximity-actuated. Route maps are not required to comply.

R415.4 Station Names. Stations covered by this section shall have identification signs complying with R409.5. Signs shall be clearly visible and within the sight lines of standing and sitting passengers from within the vehicle on both sides when not obstructed by another vehicle.

Attachment D

Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices 2009--Sections related to accessibility for people who are visually impaired
Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD)
Section 4E.09 Accessible Pedestrian Signals and Detectors – General


01 Accessible pedestrian signals and detectors provide information in non-visual formats (such as audible tones, speech messages, and/or vibrating surfaces).

02 The primary technique that pedestrians who have visual disabilities use to cross streets at signalized locations is to initiate their crossing when they hear the traffic in front of them stop and the traffic alongside them begin to move, which often corresponds to the onset of the green interval. The existing environment is often not sufficient to provide the information that pedestrians who have visual disabilities need to cross a roadway at a signalized location.


03 If a particular signalized location presents difficulties for pedestrians who have visual disabilities to cross the roadway, an engineering study should be conducted that considers the needs of pedestrians in general, as well as the information needs of pedestrians with visual disabilities. The engineering study should consider the following factors:

A. Potential demand for accessible pedestrian signals;

B. A request for accessible pedestrian signals;

C. Traffic volumes during times when pedestrians might be present, including periods of low traffic volumes or high turn-on-red volumes;

D. The complexity of traffic signal phasing (such as split phases, protected turn phases, leading pedestrian intervals, and exclusive pedestrian phases); and

E. The complexity of intersection geometry.


04 The factors that make crossing at a signalized location difficult for pedestrians who have visual disabilities include: increasingly quiet cars, right turn on red (which masks the beginning of the through phase), continuous right-turn movements, complex signal operations, traffic circles, and wide streets. Furthermore, low traffic volumes might make it difficult for pedestrians who have visual disabilities to discern signal phase changes.

05 Local organizations, providing support services to pedestrians who have visual and/or hearing disabilities, can often act as important advisors to the transportation professional when consideration is being given to the installation of devices to assist such pedestrians. Additionally, orientation and mobility specialists or similar staff also might be able to provide a wide range of advice. The U.S. Access Board ( provides technical assistance for making pedestrian signal information available to persons with visual disabilities (see Page i for the address for the U.S. Access Board).


06 When used, accessible pedestrian signals shall be used in combination with pedestrian signal timing.
The information provided by an accessible pedestrian signal shall clearly indicate which pedestrian crossing is served by each device.

07 Under stop-and-go operation, accessible pedestrian signals shall not be limited in operation by the time of day or day of week.


08 Accessible pedestrian signal detectors may be pushbuttons or passive detection devices.

09 At locations with pretimed traffic control signals or non-actuated approaches, pedestrian pushbuttons may be used to activate the accessible pedestrian signals.


10 Accessible pedestrian signals are typically integrated into the pedestrian detector (pushbutton), so the audible tones and/or messages come from the pushbutton housing. They have a pushbutton locator tone and tactile arrow, and can include audible beaconing and other special features.


11 The name of the street to be crossed may also be provided in accessible format, such as Braille or raised print.

Tactile maps of crosswalks may also be provided.


12 Specifications regarding the use of Braille or raised print for traffic control devices can be found in the “Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (ADAAG)” (see Section 1A.11).

Sect. 4E.09 December 2009
2009 Edition Page 505


13 At accessible pedestrian signal locations where pedestrian pushbuttons are used, each pushbutton shall activate both the walk interval and the accessible pedestrian signals.

Section 4E.10 Accessible Pedestrian Signals and Detectors – Location


01 Accessible pedestrian signals that are located as close as possible to pedestrians waiting to cross the street provide the clearest and least ambiguous indication of which pedestrian crossing is served by a device.


02 Pushbuttons for accessible pedestrian signals should be located in accordance with the provisions of Section 4E.08 and should be located as close as possible to the crosswalk line furthest from the center of the intersection and as close as possible to the curb ramp.


03 If two accessible pedestrian pushbuttons are placed less than 10 feet apart or on the same pole, each accessible pedestrian pushbutton shall be provided with the following features (see Sections 4E.11 through 4E.13):

A. A pushbutton locator tone,

B. A tactile arrow,

C. A speech walk message for the WALKING PERSON (symbolizing WALK) indication, and

D. A speech pushbutton information message.

04 If the pedestrian clearance time is sufficient only to cross from the curb or shoulder to a median of sufficient width for pedestrians to wait and accessible pedestrian detectors are used, an additional accessible pedestrian detector shall be provided in the median.

Section 4E.11 Accessible Pedestrian Signals and Detectors – Walk Indications


01 Technology that provides different sounds for each non-concurrent signal phase has frequently been found to provide ambiguous information. Research indicates that a rapid tick tone for each crossing coming from accessible pedestrian signal devices on separated poles located close to each crosswalk provides unambiguous information to pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired. Vibrotactile indications provide information to pedestrians who are blind and deaf and are also used by pedestrians who are blind or who have low vision to confirm the walk signal in noisy situations.


02 Accessible pedestrian signals shall have both audible and vibrotactile walk indications.

03 Vibrotactile walk indications shall be provided by a tactile arrow on the pushbutton (see Section 4E.12) that vibrates during the walk interval.

04 Accessible pedestrian signals shall have an audible walk indication during the walk interval only. The audible walk indication shall be audible from the beginning of the associated crosswalk.

05 The accessible walk indication shall have the same duration as the pedestrian walk signal except when the pedestrian signal rests in walk.


06 If the pedestrian signal rests in walk, the accessible walk indication should be limited to the first 7 seconds of the walk interval. The accessible walk indication should be recalled by a button press during the walk interval provided that the crossing time remaining is greater than the pedestrian change interval.


07 Where two accessible pedestrian signals are separated by a distance of at least 10 feet, the audible walk indication shall be a percussive tone. Where two accessible pedestrian signals on one corner are not separated by a distance of at least 10 feet, the audible walk indication shall be a speech walk message.

08 Audible tone walk indications shall repeat at eight to ten ticks per second. Audible tones used as walk indications shall consist of multiple frequencies with a dominant component at 880 Hz.


09 The volume of audible walk indications and pushbutton locator tones (see Section 4E.12) should be set to be a maximum of 5 dBA louder than ambient sound, except when audible beaconing is provided in response to an extended pushbutton press.

December 2009 Sect. 4E.09 to 4E.11
Page 506 2009 Edition


10 Automatic volume adjustment in response to ambient traffic sound level shall be provided up to a maximum volume of 100 dBA.


11 The sound level of audible walk indications and pushbutton locator tones should be adjusted to be low enough to avoid misleading pedestrians who have visual disabilities when the following conditions exist:

A. Where there is an island that allows unsignalized right turns across a crosswalk between the island and the sidewalk.

B. Where multi-leg approaches or complex signal phasing require more than two pedestrian phases, such that it might be unclear which crosswalk is served by each audible tone.

C. At intersections where a diagonal pedestrian crossing is allowed, or where one street receives a WALKING PERSON (symbolizing WALK) signal indication simultaneously with another street.


12 An alert tone, which is a very brief burst of high-frequency sound at the beginning of the audible walk
indication that rapidly decays to the frequency of the walk tone, may be used to alert pedestrians to the beginning of the walk interval.


13 An alert tone can be particularly useful if the walk tone is not easily audible in some traffic conditions.

14 Speech walk messages communicate to pedestrians which street has the walk interval. Speech messages might be either directly audible or transmitted, requiring a personal receiver to hear the message. To be a useful system, the words and their meaning need to be correctly understood by all users in the context of the street environment where they are used. Because of this, tones are the preferred means of providing audible walk indications except where two accessible pedestrian signals on one corner are not separated by a distance of at least 10 feet.

15 If speech walk messages are used, pedestrians have to know the names of the streets that they are crossing in order for the speech walk messages to be unambiguous. In getting directions to travel to a new location, pedestrians with visual disabilities do not always get the name of each street to be crossed. Therefore, it is desirable to give users of accessible pedestrian signals the name of the street controlled by the pushbutton. This can be done by means of a speech pushbutton information message (see Section 4D.13) during the flashing or steady UPRAISED HAND intervals, or by raised print and Braille labels on the pushbutton housing.

16 By combining the information from the pushbutton message or Braille label, the tactile arrow aligned in the direction of travel on the relevant crosswalk, and the speech walk message, pedestrians with visual disabilities are able to correctly respond to speech walk messages even if there are two pushbuttons on the same pole.


17 If speech walk messages are used to communicate the walk interval, they shall provide a clear message that the walk interval is in effect, as well as to which crossing it applies. Speech walk messages shall be used only at intersections where it is technically infeasible to install two accessible pedestrian signals at one corner separated by a distance of at least 10 feet.

18 Speech walk messages that are used at intersections having pedestrian phasing that is concurrent with vehicular phasing shall be patterned after the model: “Broadway. Walk sign is on to cross Broadway.”

19 Speech walk messages that are used at intersections having exclusive pedestrian phasing shall be patterned after the model: “Walk sign is on for all crossings.”

20 Speech walk messages shall not contain any additional information, except they shall include designations such as “Street” or “Avenue” where this information is necessary to avoid ambiguity at a particular location.


21 Speech walk messages should not state or imply a command to the pedestrian, such as “Cross Broadway now.” Speech walk messages should not tell pedestrians that it is “safe to cross,” because it is always the pedestrian’s responsibility to check actual traffic conditions.


22 A speech walk message is not required at times when the walk interval is not timing, but, if provided:

A. It shall begin with the term “wait.”

B. It need not be repeated for the entire time that the walk interval is not timing.

23 If a pilot light (see Section 4E.08) is used at an accessible pedestrian signal location, each actuation shall be accompanied by the speech message “wait.”

Sect. 4E.11 December 2009
2009 Edition Page 507


24 Accessible pedestrian signals that provide speech walk messages may provide similar messages in languages other than English, if needed, except for the terms “walk sign” and “wait.”


25 Following the audible walk indication, accessible pedestrian signals shall revert to the pushbutton locator tone (see Section 4E.12) during the pedestrian change interval.

Section 4E.12 Accessible Pedestrian Signals and Detectors – Tactile Arrows and Locator Tones


01 To enable pedestrians who have visual disabilities to distinguish and locate the appropriate pushbutton at an accessible pedestrian signal location, pushbuttons shall clearly indicate by means of tactile arrows which crosswalk signal is actuated by each pushbutton. Tactile arrows shall be located on the pushbutton, have high visual contrast (light on dark or dark on light), and shall be aligned parallel to the direction of travel on the associated crosswalk.

02 An accessible pedestrian pushbutton shall incorporate a locator tone.


03 A pushbutton locator tone is a repeating sound that informs approaching pedestrians that a pushbutton to actuate pedestrian timing or receive additional information exists, and that enables pedestrians with visual disabilities to locate the pushbutton.


04 Pushbutton locator tones shall have a duration of 0.15 seconds or less, and shall repeat at 1-second intervals.

05 Pushbutton locator tones shall be deactivated when the traffic control signal is operating in a flashing mode. This requirement shall not apply to traffic control signals or pedestrian hybrid beacons that are activated from a flashing or dark mode to a stop-and-go mode by pedestrian actuations.

06 Pushbutton locator tones shall be intensity responsive to ambient sound, and be audible 6 to 12 feet from the pushbutton, or to the building line, whichever is less.


07 Section 4E.11 contains additional provisions regarding the volume and sound level of pushbutton locator tones.

Section 4E.13 Accessible Pedestrian Signals and Detectors – Extended Pushbutton Press Features


01 Pedestrians may be provided with additional features such as increased crossing time, audible beaconing, or a speech pushbutton information message as a result of an extended pushbutton press.


02 If an extended pushbutton press is used to provide any additional feature(s), a pushbutton press of less than one second shall actuate only the pedestrian timing and any associated accessible walk indication, and a pushbutton press of one second or more shall actuate the pedestrian timing, any associated accessible walk indication, and any additional feature(s).

03 If additional crossing time is provided by means of an extended pushbutton press, a PUSH BUTTON FOR 2 SECONDS FOR EXTRA CROSSING TIME (R10-32P) plaque (see Figure 2B-26) shall be mounted adjacent to or integral with the pedestrian pushbutton.


04 Audible beaconing is the use of an audible signal in such a way that pedestrians with visual disabilities can home in on the signal that is located on the far end of the crosswalk as they cross the street.

05 Not all crosswalks at an intersection need audible beaconing; audible beaconing can actually cause confusion if used at all crosswalks at some intersections. Audible beaconing is not appropriate at locations with channelized turns or split phasing, because of the possibility of confusion.


06 Audible beaconing should only be considered following an engineering study at:

A. Crosswalks longer than 70 feet, unless they are divided by a median that has another accessible pedestrian signal with a locator tone;

B. Crosswalks that are skewed;

C. Intersections with irregular geometry, such as more than four legs;

D. Crosswalks where audible beaconing is requested by an individual with visual disabilities; or

E. Other locations where a study indicates audible beaconing would be beneficial.

December 2009 Sect. 4E.11 to 4E.13
Page 508 2009 Edition


07 Audible beaconing may be provided in several ways, any of which are initiated by an extended
pushbutton press.


08 If audible beaconing is used, the volume of the pushbutton locator tone during the pedestrian change interval of the called pedestrian phase shall be increased and operated in one of the following ways:

A. The louder audible walk indication and louder locator tone comes from the far end of the crosswalk, as pedestrians cross the street,

B. The louder locator tone comes from both ends of the crosswalk, or

C. The louder locator tone comes from an additional speaker that is aimed at the center of the crosswalk and that is mounted on a pedestrian signal head.


09 Speech pushbutton information messages may provide intersection identification, as well as information about unusual intersection signalization and geometry, such as notification regarding exclusive pedestrian phasing, leading pedestrian intervals, split phasing, diagonal crosswalks, and medians or islands.


10 If speech pushbutton information messages are made available by actuating the accessible pedestrian signal detector, they shall only be actuated when the walk interval is not timing. They shall begin with the term “Wait,” followed by intersection identification information modeled after: “Wait to cross Broadway at Grand.” If information on intersection signalization or geometry is also given, it shall follow the intersection identification information.


11 Speech pushbutton information messages should not be used to provide landmark information or to inform pedestrians with visual disabilities about detours or temporary traffic control situations.


12 Additional information on the structure and wording of speech pushbutton information messages is included in ITE’s “Electronic Toolbox for Making Intersections More Accessible for Pedestrians Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired,” which is available at ITE’s website (see Page i).

Section 6F.16 Warning Sign Function, Design, and Application


08. Where road users include pedestrians, the provision of supplemental audible information or detectable barriers or barricades should be considered for people with visual disabilities.


09. Detectable barriers or barricades communicate very clearly to pedestrians who have visual disabilities that they can no longer proceed in the direction that they are traveling.


Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) and Americans with Disabilities Act and Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Guidelines (New ADAAG). U.S. Access Board. 2002.

Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Transportation. U.S. Access Board, 2006.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Americans with Disabilities Page.

Barlow, J. & Bentzen, B.L. (1994). Cues blind travelers use to detect streets. Final report. Cambridge, MA: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.

Barlow, J. & Bentzen, B.L. (1995). Cues blind travelers use to detect streets. Final report. Cambridge, MA: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.

Bentzen, B.L. & Barlow, J.M. (1995). Impact of curb ramps on safety of persons who are blind. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 89, 319-328.

Draft Public Rights-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines, 2002. U.S. Access Board,

Proposed Accessibility Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right-of-Way

Draft Public Rights-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines, Revised, 2005. U.S. Access Board

Federal Register. U.S. Government Printing Office.

Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, 2009. Federal Highway Administration.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights.

28 CFR Part 36: ADA Standards for Accessible Design, 1994. United States Department of Justice.


We hope you are finding he ACB Pedestrian Safety Handbook useful. We hope that you will share accounts of your own pedestrian safety struggles and successes with us so that we may all continue to learn from one another. And, we hope that, if you find in these pages links that are broken, information that is no longer relevant, or regulations that require updating, you will share that information with us, so that the handbook will continue to be as useful and user-friendly as possible.

Contact ACB's Environmental Access Committee by calling the ACB national office at 202-467-5081 or e-mailing us at

Appendix A: Letter from FHWA re Accessible Pedestrian Signals

July 8, 2005

U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
400 Seventh St., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20590

Mr. Al Pietrolungo, President
American Council of the Blind of Maryland
4334 Slater Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21236

Refer to: HER
DOT# 2003-0031

Dear Mr. Pietrolungo:

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is in receipt of the Investigative Report, regarding the complaint you filed against the Maryland State Highway Administration (MSHA), alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Your complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation on October 22, 2002, and forwarded to the FHWA Division office in Maryland for investigation on December 10, 2002. In your complaint, you allege that the MSHA is in violation of the ADA for failure to provide accessible pedestrian signals for blind pedestrians.

The information contained in the Investigative Report states that you requested the MSHA to install accessible pedestrian signals at various locations in the State of Maryland. The MSHA's representative stated that your request could not be addressed until guidance from FHWA is provided which makes the installation of accessible pedestrian signals a requirement.

The ADA regulations at 28 Code of Federal Regulations Part 35.130(b)(1)(iii) requires that the aids, benefits, or services provided to individuals with disabilities must be as effective in affording equal opportunity to obtain the same result, to gain the same benefit, or to reach the same level of achievement as those provided to others. The FHWA finds that the lack of accessibility for blind pedestrians is a violation of the ADA. Therefore, the MSHA is not in compliance with the ADA.

The FHWA Division office in Maryland will work with the MSHA and provide necessary guidance to bring the MSHA into compliance with the ADA. The MSHA will be required to provide a transition plan for achieving compliance with the ADA for blind pedestrians. The plan should be provided to the FHWA within 45 days of notification to the MSHA of its non-compliance.

This complaint will remain open until full compliance is achieved. If you have any questions regarding your complaint you may contact Ms. Rhoda Cannon at 202-366-3384.


Director, Investigations and Adjudications

Appendix B: Template for Your Letter


Name and Address of person writing the letter

[Name and Address of traffic engineer in charge of the intersection]

This letter is to request the installation of an Accessible Pedestrian Signal (APS) at the intersection [insert street names]. As a pedestrian who is [blind, visually impaired ] I am unable to use the visual pedestrian signals currently installed at this location and need access to the information in order to cross the street. As you may be aware, there is a bus stop at this intersection; I must cross the street daily to reach the bus stop. [change that last sentence to fit the specifics of the intersection, especially if there are some issues that make it particularly hard to cross such as poor traffic sounds, lots of right-turning traffic, t-intersection, etc.]

I would like to meet with you or someone from your department at the intersection in question to discuss appropriate modifications. I would also like for [insert name of ACVREP certified orientation and mobility specialist (COMS)], a certified orientation and mobility specialist at [insert agency name] to join us. You may contact me at [insert phone number, address or email] or [insert COMS instructor name] at [insert phone number or email] to set up an appointment. Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Printed name

cc: [COMS specialist name, agency affiliation]

Appendix C: Four Case Studies

Finding community opposition where he’d hoped for support, Ted enlisted the help of a member of the city’s Pedestrian Committee who is also a national board member of America Walks (go to to find a chapter near you).

Appendix C: Four Case Studies

Case Study 1

Ted Loman, a retired TV producer, requested Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) at several crossings when he moved from Tucson, AZ, to Sandpoint, ID, in 2004. When he lived in Tucson, staff at the Arizona Rehabilitation Services Administration had provided vocational rehabilitation (VR) support that included APS at locations he identified. But, Sandpoint, a small city of about 7,500 residents, has no local disability service providers and its public works agency was not familiar with ADA requirements or APS technology. In addition, both city and State roadways were involved and Ted found that engineers were more concerned about the cost implications of retrofitting intersections for his use than about his rights to use them.

Ted had to research key issues, educate local and State government transportation staff, and take full responsibility for moving his requests forward. And in spite of his offers of help, when the State grudgingly installed the APS, they put them in the wrong places and didn’t adjust them properly. It took months of meetings, emails and phone calls to get the APS installations corrected.

Finding community opposition where he’d hoped for support, Ted enlisted the help of a member of the city’s Pedestrian Committee who is also a national board member of America Walks (go to to find a chapter near you) to broaden his advocacy efforts. More recently, he has involved regional civil rights staff from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in support of his efforts (for a list of FHWA offices nationwide, see

And don’t get Ted started on overhanging branches, inadequately-protected construction sites, deteriorated sidewalks or non-existent maintenance and enforcement.

"It’s become a full-time job just to exercise the rights the law gives me," he said.

Still, he’s accomplished a great deal. His advice to others?

• educate yourself on the technology AND the law – and use it;
• make opportunities to raise and discuss the issues with local and State officials;
• don’t let yourself be discouraged by opposition and delay – keep at it;
• involve other advocates who share your objectives so you don’t get isolated and stereotyped as a troublemaker; and
• if community outreach isn’t effective, try Federal resources.

Recently, Ted wrote a letter to Thomas E. Perez, the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the US Department of Justice. Ted pointed out that the Idaho State FHWA office had informed Idaho DOT that resurfacing projects of less than 1-1/2 inches in thickness didn’t need to include curb ramps, advice that Ted was sure was incorrect. In response, DOJ wrote the FHWA Administrator in Washington, DC to correct the misinformation. That word will now go out to FHWA offices across the US. Now, when any resurfacing is done, curb ramps must be included. That’s quite an accomplishment! Ted is an inspiration to us, and, we hope, to you as well.

Case Study 2: It takes a village….

Neighbors in a suburb of Kalamazoo, MI, grew concerned when the State DOT proposed to eliminate a traffic signal on a 4-lane state road through the center of town because it didn’t meet MDOT warrants for the installation of a signal (warrants may be based on volume of traffic or pedestrian crossings, accident record, or other criteria) for a signal. A resident who is blind raised concerns about the removal at a board meeting of the regional center for independent living, the Disability Network of Southwest Michigan (DNSM), noting that the nearest other signalized intersections were more than a mile away in either direction.

The DNSM staff advocate, Paul Ecklund, contacted the US Access Board for information on whether the ADA might be applicable. Staff pointed him to provisions in title II of the regulation that require jurisdictions to consider changes in policies and practices where reasonable and necessary for accessibility. In one of those cases in Concord, NH, a high school student who was blind had sought a stop sign at a street she crossed on the way to school that did not meet the warrant for a stop sign. A complaint was filed, and the city agreed to install the sign. Paul followed up, seeking to understand the principals in that case and in another identified by the Board, to get details about the settlements that were worked out. Armed with this information, Ecklund then drafted a cover letter and grievance filing to the Michigan DOT on behalf of the consumer and other residents, asking that the signal be permitted to remain. A public forum was scheduled with County commissioners and Michigan DOT’s bicycle-pedestrian coordinator, Josh DeBruyn, at which the broader community interest in retaining the signal was also expressed. Ecklund worked hard to arrive at a ‘friendly’ solution, involving the newspaper, residents along the roadway, and the local highway engineer while avoiding friction.

The final solution was a collegial one: the state DOT retained the signal as being a ‘reasonable’ use in that location. By coordinating efforts with the broader community, Paul Ecklund was able to craft an agreement that highway engineers could support without requiring formal legal action.

Case Study 3: Strength in numbers…

In 2007, the City and County of San Francisco announced an agreement to install accessible pedestrian signals (APS) at key city intersections. The agreement, in the form of a legal settlement, was the culmination of a lengthy process known as a Structured Negotiation. Pioneered by lawyers Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian, the technique harnessed the interests of several claimants: the California Council of the Blind, the San Francisco-based Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco, and blind advocate Damien Pickering.

The process began with a letter to the city outlining the access issue, the legal basis in civil rights law for the claimants’ request, and some suggested approaches to a solution. The city agreed to engage in the formal process of a Structured Negotiation in which participants collaborate on a settlement satisfactory to all parties. The legally-binding settlement agreement that was announced in July 2007, stipulated that the City would commit 1.6 million dollars over the next two and a half years to install APS at 80 intersections. Further, the agreement provided that the City would seek additional funding for more installations (Federal stimulus funds have now been received for several additional intersections) and would develop a policy for San Francisco residents to request accessible pedestrian signals at other crossings. Technical specifications for APS, a checklist for prioritizing requests for new APS, and details of a maintenance program were also included.

At the announcement of the program’s receipt in March 2010 of stimulus funds to support additional APS installations, Jessie Lorenz, Associate Director of the Independent Living Resource Center in San Francisco noted: “San Francisco’s APS program is the gold standard that other municipalities are emulating. The success of the program is based in large part on the unwavering commitment of the California Council of the Blind, the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the SFMTA. Collaboration between these organizations has turned San Francisco into one of the most visitable cities in the country for individuals who are blind.”

Case Study 4: Slow and steady wins the race…

Early in his tenure as President of the American Council of the Blind of Maryland, Al Pietrolungo worked with Chapter members to identify 30 locations in the State where accessible pedestrians signals (APS) were needed to provide audible WALK indications at intersections. Baltimore City had installed APS in the late 1990s in response to Chapter effort there, but Individual requests in other parts of the State had gone unanswered. But Al was determined.

In letter after letter, Al submitted documentation of the requests to the Maryland State Highway Administration (MSHA), asking for action.

MSHA staffers reported that they were ‘studying’ the requests and would respond soon. They argued that, as there were no Federal standards for APS, they could not be provided.

Every 60 days, Al would write another letter citing ADA and Rehabilitation Act provisions requiring that pedestrians be accommodated when necessary for accessibility. A year passed without any APS installations or formal reply. The Chapter considered. Should they wait for planned new Federal standards or move forward themselves with a formal complaint? The Chapter was determined to be proactive and in 2002, submitted a complaint alleging discrimination to the Office of Civil Rights of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), an agency of the US Department of Transportation that provides much of the funding for roadway construction -- funding that obligates its recipients to accessible design and construction. “By failing to say ‘yes’, Pietrolungo noted, MSHA was denying blind residents the information they needed to cross streets safely.”

FHWA’s Baltimore Division investigated, meeting with complainants and the MSHA. And finally, in July 2005, FHWA notified Al of its finding that, by failing to install requested APS, the Maryland State Highway Administration had violated the ADA requirement that ‘aids, benefits, or services provided to individuals with disabilities must be as effective in affording equal opportunity to obtain the same result, to gain the same benefit, or to reach the same level of achievement as those provided to others’. FHWA indicated that they would seek a negotiated agreement with MSHA that would establish a 10-year program to retrofit existing signalized intersections with APS and install new APS whenever an intersection was newly-provided with pedestrian signals.

In October of 2005, Neil Pederson, the administrator of MSHA was invited to address the statewide ACB convention. He made a commitment to install APS at 1,250 traffic-controlled intersections by 2015. In addition, Pedersen agreed to convene a panel to consider sidewalk construction, lighting, and the installation of accessible bus shelters throughout the state.

That work continues. MSHA’s required report for the last quarter of 2009 notes the installation of 30 new APS, for a current total of 424. Almost 450 intersections are in design for APS, with 165 requests pending. In addition, almost 30,000 linear feet of new sidewalk have been poured, 125 construction staff trained, a facility access review completed, new bus stops constructed, and transition planning prioritized. Quite a change from 2002….

Appendix D: Glossary of Terms

Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP): The body which provides certification of vision-related rehabilitation professionals, including Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS). The professional certification of O&M Specialists, which is provided currently by ACVREP, was first established over 30 years ago. Originally, O&M certification was administered through the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired AER, and it’s predecessor, The American Association of Workers for the Blind (AAWB), starting in 1968. In January 2000, certification of O&M specialists was taken on by the ACVREP, which is an independent and autonomous legal certification body governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. Orientation and mobility specialists certified by ACVREP use the acronym COMS.

Accessible Pedestrian Signal (APS): A device that communicates information about pedestrian timing in nonvisual format such as audible tones, verbal messages, and/or vibrating surfaces (MUTCD, Section 4A.02). An alternative definition, A device that communicates information about the WALK phase in audible and vibrotactile formats, can be found in Draft PROWAG, R105.5.

Audible beaconing: The use of an audible signal in such a way that pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired can use hearing to home in on the signal from the opposite corner as they cross the street. The ascending or descending audible tone is intended to provide directional orientation.

Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS): Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS) provide sequential instruction to individuals with visual impairment in the use of their remaining senses to determine their position within the environment and in techniques for safe movement from one place to another.

Controller Assembly (CA): A complete electrical device mounted in a cabinet for controlling the operation of a highway traffic signal.

Cycle: The time required for one complete sequence of light changes (phases)

Detectable warnings (DW): is a standardized surface of truncated domes built into or applied to walking surfaces or other elements to warn visually impaired persons of hazards in the path of travel.

Interval: A portion of the signal cycle during which the signal indications remain unchanged, for example, the pedestrian walk interval, the pedestrian clearance interval

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

Ped button: The pushbutton that you push (also called the ped detector), which is usually on the same pole as the pedhead, but which may be difficult to locate at some intersections

Pedcall: What happens when you push the button. Signals the signal controller box that there is a pedestrian at the intersection.

Pedhead: The "walk/don't walk" signal, usually a square box type signal on a pole, aligned to be visible to sighted pedestrians from the crosswalk

Ped Phase: What you get as a result of pushing the button (the ped phase is designed to provide a long enough time to walk, rather than drive, across the intersection).

Phase: The portion of a signal cycle allocated to any combination of one or more traffic movements receiving the right of way at the same time, for example, the westbound phase, the pedestrian phase

Public Rights of Way Access Guidelines (PROWAG): draft guidelines, for public rights-of-way which when adopted, will address, various issues, including access for blind pedestrians at street crossings, wheelchair access to on-street parking, and various accessibility constraints posed by space limitations, roadway design practices, slope, and terrain.

Roundabout: A type of circular junction in which road traffic must travel counter-clockwise in one direction around a central island.

Scramble light: A pedestrian crossing system that stops all vehicular traffic and allows pedestrians to cross an intersection in every direction, including diagonally, at the same time.

Split: Percentage of the cycle length allocated to each of the various phases.
Traffic engineer(TE): An engineer who plans and monitors the geometric design and traffic operations of roads, streets, motorways, their networks and their relationships with all modes of transportation for the safe, efficient and convenient movement of people and goods.