From Paris to New York, we’ve matched metro maps against versions that only include fully accessible stations. The results are discouraging – but are any cities doing it right?
The disAbilities Resource Centre in Queenstown, Australia has created a color-coded map detailing the accessibility of the streets and footpaths in the area. The map can act as a guide for new residents and visitors who have walking difficulties or use a wheelchair, mobility scooter or pram. Gently sloped streets are labeled in green, steeper streets are blue, while very steep streets are brown. The map also identifies scenic viewpoints, picnic and rest areas, useful services, accessible parking lots and public toilets, as well as the locations of the 37 businesses that sponsored the map. This project is a great idea that could easily be replicated in other locations to provide useful accessibility information to tourists and residents alike.
The new Michigan School for the Deaf in Flint, MI is a 80,000-square-foot, 26-classroom building that includes state of the art design and technology. All classrooms, and even some hallways, can accomodate flat-panel TVs and smartboards. Additionally the gym and cafeteria/auditorium feature large projector screens that can display game scores and schoolwide annoucements. All of the screens are connected so that important anoucements can reach all students at once. If necessary, school officials can also send an American Sign Language interpretation to secondary screens. Furniture in classrooms and the media center is organized in a cemi-circle to facilitate signed disscussion.
Accessibility features are becoming more prominient and widely accepted in all aspects of life. From theatre to video games, product designers are recognizing the importance of inclusive design. Duncan McKean has managed to apply these concepts to one of the most popular and mentally challenging board games – chess.
Although this game was created with intent to include those with visual impairments, a seeing person could also play this game. In making this set accessible, McKean uses features that appeal to physical perception as opposed to only visual. Each piece is held in it’s place on the board by a magnet, while the different values of each piece is characterized by different weights. Having different physically perceivable patterns on each piece makes it easy to recognize which is being moved. Player pieces are distinguished by the material the pieces are made of – one player has hardwood pieces while the other has metallic steel.
On April 3rd, officials in New York City unveiled the “Taxi of Tomorrow,” which is scheduled to replaces all existing cabs in the Big Apple. The “Taxis of Tomorrow” does contain some accessibility features geared towards helping people with vision or hearing impairments, including braille writing identifying the name of the cab’s driver and a hearing loop system and driver and passenger intercom system. Unfortunately, the standard model does not come with a built in ramp for people using mobility devices like wheelchairs.
The “Taxis of Tomorrow” can be converted into an accessible van, with the addition of a ramp that unfolds from the back of the vehicle. By some estimates, the ramp might add up to $12,000 to the price of each taxi.
Currently, only 233 of the more than 13,000 taxis in New York City are accessible. That’s fewer than 2 percent. Late last year a federal judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission for violating the ADA. Judge George Daniels ruled that the commission could only provide taxi medallions for wheelchair-accessible vehicles until it establishes a plan to provide access people who use mobility devices. Since then the commission has since been granted a stay pending an appeal scheduled for April 19th.
Groups like “Taxis for All” are protesting the new taxi design, pointing out that vehicles with built-in accessibility options already exist (like the MV-1 van) and that true equality requires that all taxis be fully accessible, rather than requiring people with disabilities to contact taxis dispatches rather than being able to hail any cab from the street.
At the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society’s latest annual meeting in Las Vegas, a case was presented that found that the Washington, D.C. Metro system, although a work in progress, still has many barriers for handicapped riders. This is contrary to Metro spokesman Dan Stessel, who claimed that after pouring a significant amount of investments into the Metro system, it is now ADA-compliant.
Two ergonomics consultants from California assessed both the Takoma Park and Dupont Stations, and found quite a bit of features that weren’t accessible, including entrances, vending machines, gaps between the trains and the platforms, fast-closing doors, and more. These inaccessible features would either make travel more tedious for, or totally eliminate a person with mobility hindrances from using the service all together.