What are APS?

You may wonder why some of the newer push buttons at street crossings make noises, talk to you, and even vibrate. These devices are known as Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS), and are designed to help people living with sight and/or hearing impairments to cross the street. People that are blind and deaf-blind use APS to help with crossing orientation as well as identifying the right time to cross the street.

APS device in Seattle

APS device in Seattle

A locator tone on the APS device, which is a constant subtle beeping sound, helps people with visual impairments to locate the button. The deaf-blind typically need to learn where the poles and push buttons are located; consistent design and location can result in a predictable button location. When the button is pushed, an audible alert sounds to “wait!”

When the walk sign turns on and it is time to cross the street, a percussive tone rapidly repeats to alert those that are visually impaired. When two push buttons are located close together, there may be confusion as to which crossing is safe to cross. In this case, an audible message will signal the correct crossing. For example, “Walk sign is on for Broadway.”

The button also vibrates to send an important tactile signal to the deaf-blind that the walk sign is on. This means that a deaf-blind person must push the button and have contact with it during the waiting period. The button has a raised arrow to indicate the appropriate crossing. It is imperative that the face of the button be directly in line with the crosswalk that it serves. The alignment of the button and the crosswalk helps with orientation and understanding of the intended crossing movement.

APS device aligned with crosswalk

APS device aligned with crosswalk

APS devices used in Seattle are consistent with federal guidelines and standards to be consistent with best practices used throughout the country. People living with disabilities may request the installation of APS devices in locations where they may be needed.

If you have any questions about accessibility within the Seattle public right-of-way, we encourage you contact SDOT’s ADA Coordinator, Michael Shaw. He can be reached at (206) 615-1974 or by email at Michael.Shaw@seattle.gov.

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Ramp Up Seattle

Every year, SDOT builds or replaces 500-1,000 curb ramps to increase access for people using our sidewalks and crosswalks, especially those with wheelchairs or other mobility devices. In late 2016, we held a public meeting and online survey to gather feedback on where ramps are needed most and how they could be improved.

Curb ramp construction in 2016

Curb ramp construction in 2016

Hundreds of Seattle residents gave input on curb ramps, including many living with disabilities, and we are working to incorporate their feedback into future curb ramp construction plans.

  • Participants felt that prioritizing curb ramp improvements serving transit facilities, medical facilities, and public buildings (schools, libraries, community centers, etc.) are most important.
  • The alignment of the curb ramps and the crosswalk is very important to most participants.
  • The collection of water and debris at the bottom of curb ramps is a concern to many.
  • Most participants were not aware that specific curb ramp improvement requests can be made on the SDOT website.
  • Exclusive of curb ramps, many of the participants feel that addressing areas in Seattle where sidewalks are missing should be the highest priority for improvement.
Public meeting at the Center Park Community Room

Public meeting at the Center Park Community Room

Thanks to everyone who shared their experiences online or at joined our November 1 meeting at the Center Park Community Room!

Check out the current map of traffic safety features, including curb ramp locations and conditions, here.

If you have any questions about accessibility within the Seattle public right-of-way, we encourage you contact SDOT’s ADA Coordinator, Michael Shaw. He can be reached at (206) 615-1974 or by email at Michael.Shaw@seattle.gov.

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Curb Ramp Map and Accessible Route Planner Now Live!

SDOT has launched a new online tool that provides valuable information for people using Seattle sidewalks, curb ramps, and street crossings. This tool is the City of Seattle Curb Ramp Map and Accessible Route Planner. It’s updated daily with data that can help people better plan their routes, particularly those of us living with disabilities. You can also find the map online from our SDOT home page under Resources/Getting Around Seattle.


City of Seattle Curb Ramp Map and Accessible Route Planner

The City of Seattle Curb Ramp Map and Accessible Route Planner identifies:

  • Sidewalks and curb ramps in the city. They are colored in a way to demonstrate either attribute features or whether it is in good, fair, or poor condition. This may help people plan alternate routes if sidewalks or curb ramps have not yet been built or may be older or in poor condition.
  • Street slope estimates. This may be particularly helpful for people using wheelchairs or other mobility assisting devices. If a street is too steep, it may be difficult for some people to use or may cause significant battery deterioration for electric wheel chairs.
  • Marked crosswalks and traffic signal locations. Some people may be looking for these when planning routes.
  • Transit facilities and bus stop locations are identified on the map as well as important facilities such as hospitals, libraries, schools, and community centers.

Map shows hospital and transit (streetcar line) in First Hill Area.

  • Sidewalk closures due to construction or temporary uses are identified.
  • Users can toggle between aerial photos or the standard City of Seattle Basemap.

Map shows standard Seattle Basemap along with assets and slopes.

This map has been created with the best information we have available. SDOT encourages users of this map to help us continually improve the map’s accuracy as well as to provide input on other information or data that may be useful to people planning their routes around Seattle. If you find a location or asset details that are not correctly identified, please contact us at SDOTAssets@seattle.gov with the asset location along with the missing information and photos. Requests for map features or asset information can also be emailed to this address.

If you have any questions about accessibility within the Seattle public right-of-way, we encourage you contact SDOT’s ADA Coordinator, Michael Shaw. He can be reached at (206) 615-1974 or by email at Michael.Shaw@seattle.gov.

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Curb Ramps: How You Can Help Make a Difference

The City of Seattle strives to make city programs, services, and activities equally accessible to all. Features such as curb ramps, ramps, sidewalks, detectable warnings and street crossings are components of an accessible pedestrian network.


Curb ramps are an important part of helping many people where they need to go. They make our streets and sidewalks accessible by ramping down to connect with crosswalks. Curb ramp design and construction includes a ramp with a tactile warning surface, landings, and necessary sidewalk transitions and minor utility modifications. This is especially important for people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices.

If you are living with a disability, you can request curb ramp installation specifically where you need them by visiting the SDOT ADA Request Page.

You can even help SDOT determine where to build new curb ramps or improve existing curb ramps – by filling out a short online survey that will let us know about your specific needs. Take the survey here: SDOT Curb Ramp Survey

surveyIf you have any questions about accessibility within the Seattle public right-of-way, we encourage you contact SDOT’s ADA Coordinator, Michael Shaw. He can be reached at (206) 615-1974 or by email at Michael.Shaw@seattle.gov.

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You Can Request Accessibility Improvements!

Did you know that if you require access improvements along your pedestrian route to work, home, or wherever you need to be, you can get help from SDOT? That’s right, and there are a number of different ways to do it!

If you have a mobile device handy and access to the internet, you can use SDOT’s “Find it, Fix it” application to report a concern. Maybe there is a crack in the sidewalk that is difficult to walk or roll over, or perhaps overgrowing vegetation or tree branches are partially blocking a route? Get on the app and report it to SDOT! You can take a photo of your findings to help SDOT understand the problem. These access concerns will be sent by the app to the Seattle Customer Services Bureau and sent to the appropriate SDOT Division for resolution.

FIFI app

SDOT “Find it, Fix it” App

Did you also know that SDOT has an ADA Request Program for solutions to your accessibility needs, too? People living with disabilities may need curb ramps, Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) or other improvements for access.

If you are living with a disability, you can use our online ADA Request webpage to request that a curb ramp be installed. You can also request APS so that the audible or vibrational cues will let you know when it’s time to cross the street safely. SDOT’s ADA Request Program is specifically designed to respond to these needs, and the improvements are made as soon as possible.

 curb ramp construction  ped signal
Curb ramp construction helps people with mobility disabilities.


Accessible Pedestrian Signals provide important information to the blind and deaf-blind.

The ADA Request webpage provides several options for submitting your request. This webpage also provides general ADA information and details current SDOT efforts towards improving access in the Seattle public right-of-way.

If you have any questions about accessibility within the Seattle public right-of-way, we encourage you contact SDOT’s ADA Coordinator, Michael Shaw. He can be reached at (206) 615-1974 or by email at Michael.Shaw@seattle.gov.

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How We’re Improving Access in Downtown Seattle

Seattle is renowned for our arts, outdoors, and well, rain. Less well known is that we have some serious hills, rivaling San Francisco’s steeps, which pose an obstacle to accessibility for wheelchair users.

steep street1

Steep Street: Cherry St. between 4th and 5th avenues.

Manual wheelchair users face a steep climb, and power chairs can deplete their battery motoring uphill, so how can we make downtown accessible for everyone? Creative solutions, collaboration, and recognizing challenges.

steep street2

Steep Street: Madison St. between 4th and 5th avenues.

This summer, we’re bringing together transportation agencies, regional Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinators, accessibility advocates, and people with disabilities to discuss solutions and obstacles to make getting around easier for everyone.

Our first meeting focused on how to improve existing elevators and tunnels by improving signage, introducing shuttles, extending elevator hours, and building new accessibility features. The group also discussed how maps and apps could be used to share information, including tactile features for people with visual impairments, and make trip planning easier.

ADA map

Downtown Seattle Accessibility Map

The group will meet again in the near future, and in the meantime is working to improve existing maps of downtown accessibility features. The current map is available online here.

If you have any questions about accessibility within the Seattle public right-of-way, we encourage you contact SDOT’s ADA Coordinator, Michael Shaw. He can be reached at (206) 615-1974 or by email at Michael.Shaw@seattle.gov.


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SDOT Learns How Deaf-Blind Pedestrians Get Around

We had the chance to learn more about how deaf-blind pedestrians use sidewalks, street crossings, and public transit to get around the city thanks to The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. David Miller, an Orientation & Mobility Specialist with The Lighthouse, extended an invitation to observe how deaf-blind pedestrians navigate the public pedestrian ways and transit systems.

First, we met with David and John Romish. John is deaf-blind due to Usher syndrome and does not understand spoken language. His vision has been severely impacted due to retinitis pigmentosa; John has less than 10 degrees of remaining vision of what normally would be 180 degrees. John and David are able to communicate using the sense of touch through Tactile American Sign Language (TASL), where information is passed using gestures and motions between their hands.


John Romish crosses the street on Capitol Hill with his guide dog.

John relies on his guide dog to help him find curb ramps and street crossings. His limited vision may allow John to identify the surge of traffic when a signal turns green, letting him know it is time to make the crossing parallel to the moving vehicles.  When riding the Streetcar from Rainier Valley to Capitol Hill, John needs to sit close to the doors of the vehicle so he may see or feel the doors open and close to help him count stops and to determine his location. John also has learned to identify landmarks along transit routes where a hill or a turn along a route helps him keep track of his location.

Next, we met David and Alberto Gonzales at the Mount Baker LINK station. Alberto lost all of his vision from Rubella many years ago and is Deaf. Again, David and Alberto are able to communicate using TASL. Alberto also uses a guide dog, a long white cane to help with wayfinding and detection, and a tool called a Miniguide. Alberto demonstrated his ability to find the “welcome mat” in the LINK tunnel, which is a textured surface on the floor that indicates where train stops and the LINK doors open. When Alberto has located this welcome mat, he uses the Miniguide to help him understand when the train arrives. When Alberto activates his Miniguide, a vibration will be emitted when there is an obstruction within a set distance from the front of the device. As he holds the button before the train arrives, there is no vibration. The vibration commences when the train begins to pass in front of him, and then stops when the doors to the vehicle open.


Alberto Gonzales awaits the LINK using his mini-guide.

These meetings highlighted the importance of curb ramp and signal crossing push button placement for deaf-blind pedestrians, designs need to be consistent so they’re predictable. The pedestrian push buttons have a tactile vibration feature that inform Alberto when it is appropriate to cross the street. These accessible pedestrian signals (APS) are very important to pedestrians like John and Alberto, allowing individuals with limited/no vision or hearing to interpret safe crossing times.


David Miller observes as Alberto Gonzales locates the pedestrian pushbutton.

SDOT is looking for opportunities to strengthen relations with individuals and communities of people that live with disabilities in Seattle and the surrounding region. It is important that we understand the abilities and needs of all pedestrians.

If you have any questions about accessibility within the Seattle public right-of-way, we encourage you contact SDOT’s ADA Coordinator, Michael Shaw. He can be reached at (206) 615-1974 or by email at Michael.Shaw@seattle.gov.

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Considering the Needs of All Pedestrians

Some of us walk quickly, and some of us walk slowly. Others cannot see or hear as well as others. Still others use mobility assistive devices to help them get to where they need to be. SDOT is trying to better understand the abilities and needs of all pedestrians—in particular, those who live with disabilities.

SDOT engineers have participated in blindness simulations to experience the challenges for people with vision impairments, and traveled the sidewalks of Pioneer Square in a wheelchair to experience difficulties using a mobility assistive device. SDOT understands that simply sitting in a wheelchair and rolling on a sidewalk for 10 minutes is not the same experience as living with a mobility disability.


SDOT Engineer Johanna Landherr uses a wheelchair on a new curb ramp.

That’s why SDOT recently procured a wheelchair that is now used to test sidewalks, curb ramps, and street crossings in different areas of Seattle. This testing provides an eye-opening experience, and a valuable tool, for our engineers. That tangible knowledge can be sent back to the office for consideration when designing curb ramps and sidewalks.


SDOT Engineer John Ricardi struggles to roll up a ramp.

During the exercise demonstrated in these photos, the engineers experienced the obvious challenges of rolling up sloped ramps. Perhaps more important were the subtle challenges, or those that are not usually considered. For example, the side-to-side slope on a sidewalk, if not limited, can be exhausting for a person in a wheelchair, pushing the wheels with their arms. Changes in sidewalk surfaces or grade at the top and bottom of ramps can also disrupt momentum or stability.


Changes in grade on ramps can affect momentum or stability.

SDOT will continue to experiment using the wheelchair, as well as to participate in any exercises possible to better understand the needs of all pedestrians.

If you have any questions about accessibility within the Seattle public right-of-way, we encourage you check out SDOT’s website here, or contact SDOT’s ADA Coordinator, Michael Shaw. He can be reached at (206) 615-1974 or by email at Michael.Shaw@seattle.gov.

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Access Seattle: Keeping the Right of Way Accessible to All

Seattle continues to grow and neighborhoods across the city are being impacted by dense construction. SDOT’s Access Seattle crews conduct reviews, in addition to regularly scheduled inspections, of construction sites to assess their impact on pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. We work with contractors to maintain right-of-way code, enforce when necessary, and educate about the importance of accessibility for all.

The Access team recently conducted a review of a construction site in Ballard and identified opportunities for improving mobility around the site. Inspectors worked with the contractor to provide cane-detectable surfaces around scaffolding in line with ADA standards, and to restore access to parking and the nearby parking kiosk by realigning the scaffolding on the sidewalk. As you can see in the photos below, these types of improvements make our city more navigable for all.



Access Seattle’s end goals also received a boost of support this year with the implementation of a new SDOT Director’s Rule (DR). DR 10-2015, better known as the Director’s Rule for Pedestrian Mobility In and Around Work Zones, provides our inspectors with a clear framework with which to coach contractors on approved right-of-way practices. The rule prioritizes pedestrian access and makes sidewalk closures around work zones a last resort. The clear expectations outlined in this new rule allow pedestrians to navigate a more predictable city, and contractors to better understand what is expected of them when using the right of way.

The Access Seattle team is constantly working to identify areas where public mobility and access can be improved. Do you have questions or comments regarding mobility and construction in your neighborhood? Please send the team an email at SDOTConstructionHub@Seattle.gov.

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New Safe Routes to School Crossing in Greenwood is Complete

SDOT crews have completed a new school crossing at N 80th St and 1st Ave N that provides a safer way for kids to cross the street to get to Greenwood Elementary School and St John Catholic School. Improvements include a new curb bulb, curb ramps compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), marked crosswalks, and crossing beacons that flash when activated by pedestrians or bicyclists.

The project also included adding an additional 20 MPH school zone flashing beacon on NW 80th St west of 8th Ave NW to slow down people driving through this intersection which is heavily used by Greenwood students.

safe routes

The benefits of this project include:

  • Improves safety on walking and biking route to school
  • Shortens crossing distance of N 80th St and 1st Ave N
  • Encourages more kids to walk and bike to school, which will reduce congestion at the school

This improved crossing is part of the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program, a national movement to make it easier and safer for students to walk and bike to school. The project also includes education and encouragement programs to get more kids walking and biking safely to school.

The Safe Routes to School program was developed as part of Vision Zero, the City’s plan to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. Improving safety for school communities means building healthy places where kids can safely walk and bike to school and in their neighborhood.

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