New Metro SmarTrip Dispensers – Accessibility Fail?


Disability advocates are questioning the accessibility of the newly implemented SmarTrip card dispensers. Metro’s plan was to make the cards more accessible to disabled riders, however, the proposed locations at every rail station will not be immediately accessible to those who are blind or have limited vision. The machines will not have an audio feature, making them particularly difficult to use for riders with cognitive disabilities. The machines are set to be available for use starting September 1.

There will be 100 dispensers, each costing roughly $12,000, installed. There are 100 more machines that metro intends to purchase for use at the rail stations. Denise Rush, a current blind member of Metro’s Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC), has expressed her concern that Metro is spending money on the installation of equipment that doesn’t prove to be accessible for everyone to use. Given that it is already a hassle trying to commute using the current system due to poor platform lighting, improper functioning loudspeakers, and chronically broken escalators and elevators, the new machines add insult to injury.

Universal Design (UD) is an approach to design that increases the potential for developing a better quality of life for a wide range of individuals. It is a design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation (Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012). It creates products, systems, and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation.