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Innovative Street Design and Accessibility

SDOT, other transportation agencies, and accessibility professionals recently got together to learn about and discuss the needs of people living with vision disabilities at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Innovative Street Design and Accessibility Workshop.

It was a learning opportunity that included a forum discussion on how street and bike lane design can impact them. For example, did you know that 85% of people who are considered legally blind possess some level of remaining vision? People also had a chance to observe a tactile roadway map with raised features, allowing those with low or no vision to feel proposed street design layouts using their fingertips as they felt across the map. Pretty cool!

Tactile roadway map

Perhaps the most informative and interesting part of the workshop were the assessments on Seattle sidewalks and streets. The group traveled across the city to get important feedback on street and sidewalk features.

Tactile features on the sidewalk are identified

Participants with vision impairments commented on different features found along the way, including tactile or raised features on the sidewalk for foot or cane detection, and traffic signal push-button locations.

Exploring accessibility at the Westlake Cycle Track

Feedback from this group will be used by the FHWA to produce guidance material that can be shared throughout the country. This will promote consistent design from city to city, which is important so that people living with vision impairments can understand how to navigate and understand the cues provided.

The FHWA workshop included attendance by The Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind, the Deaf-Blind Service Center, the U.S. Access Board, FHWA consultant Toole Design Group, and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

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