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.
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 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.