Alternative Technology and Accessibility

Most people are aware of devices that help people with mobility disabilities get around – like wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. But did you know other technologies are being used or developed that can also help people get to where they need to go?

One example is called a Miniguide. A Miniguide is typically a small hand-held device that uses ultrasonic echo-location to detect objects, like parked cars. The device vibrates when an object nearby is detected and the vibration rate increases as it moves closer to the object. A Miniguide can help blind and deaf-blind people avoid obstacles.

Alberto Gonzales awaits the LINK using his Miniguide.

Alberto Gonzales awaits the LINK using his Miniguide.

When used while walking on sidewalks in Seattle, this device can help identify parked cars, utility poles and objects like overhanging trees or overgrowing vegetation. A Miniguide can also help blind and deaf-blind pedestrians locate an accessible pedestrian signal (APS) to assist in crossing a street.

As SDOT learned from observations of deaf-blind pedestrians in 2016, Miniguides may also be used to detect buses, trains, and other transit features. Miniguides are intended to supplement the information provided by a guide dog or a cane.

Soon we may see other devices developed that can help people with mobility, visual, or hearing impairments. Cell phones or other hand-held devices may be able to communicate with our traffic signals to help blind and deaf-blind pedestrians crossing streets. Innovations could come to mobility assistive devices, making sidewalks and curb ramps easier to use.

Did you know that you can request SDOT to evaluate potential new access technology? If you are aware of an alternative technology that may assist in improving accessibility and mobility for people with disabilities, you can request an evaluation on SDOT’s ADA Request webpage.

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