Access Board Projects
By Dona Sauerburger, COMS
November 1997 Newsletter
Metropolitan Washington Orientation and Mobility Association (WOMA)
The Access Board is doing some exciting projects to increase the accessibility of the environment for people who are blind or have other disabilities. The Access Board is the abbreviated name of the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, a federal agency created in 1973. It has served the nation as the only independent federal agency whose primary mission is accessibility for people with disabilities. Among other things, the Access Board develops minimum guidelines and requirements for standards issued under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Architectural Barriers Act, provides technical assistance on those guidelines, and enforces the Architectural Barriers Act.
Under the direction of Lois Thibault, the Board's Coordinator of Training, several research and technical assistance projects focused on the public right-of-way have recently been undertaken. Lois, who is also a member of the Transportation Research Board's Pedestrian Committee and the author of the Access Board's proposed rights-of-way guidelines, attended our last WOMA meeting (see page 2) and explained some of their projects:
1) A videotape has been produced explaining environmental features to be considered when designing intersections and sidewalks. It consists of four segments of 5-10 minutes each, highlighting pedestrians who use wheelchairs; have mobility impairments; have low vision; and are blind. Each segment is narrated by an Access Board staff member who has the disability being discussed.
You can received a free copy of the video upon request to Lois Thibault at the Access Board (please leave name and mailing address) by phone: 202-272-5434 (press #1 twice for the publications line); by e-mail: and by fax: 202/272-5447.
A two-page handout "Key Features of Accessible Sidewalks and Street Crossings" comes with the video. In January 1998 the Access Board, together with Department of Transportation / Federal Highway Administration and Department of Justice, expects to publish a comprehensive Technical Assistance Manual on Rights-of-Way Accessibility. It will have 50 pages of text, well illustrated with drawings and photographs.
2) At the annual conference of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) in January 1998, Lois is doing a full day workshop on audible signals, complete with a "trade show" of devices manufactured in the U.S. and abroad. She hopes to have presentations from O&Mers Lukas Franck from The Seeing Eye, Beezy Bentzen (who will present her publication described below) and myself, as well as Patricia Montes de Oca who is an O&Mer on the Los Angeles system of warrants for audible pedestrian signals. Lois also plans to ask the City of Oakland to present a multi-legged intersection problem for analysis to come up with solutions that could make it accessible for blind people. She would welcome any other ideas and recommendations for this workshop.
Incidently, at the same TRB conference, Beezy Bentzen's proposal to do a program on information at intersections was accepted, which will be presented jointly by Beezy, Dave Guth from Western Michigan University, Lukas Franck, and myself. In addition, another member of the TRB Pedestrian Committee, Carolyn Konheim, is doing a session on Pedestrian Applications of ITS Technologies (ITS is 'intelligent transportation systems').
3) As explained on page 4, Beezy Bentzen is working on a publication for the Access Board explaining the state of the art for audible pedestrian signals, describing all of the audible signals by type, application, characteristics, manufacturer, cost, etc.
4) Lois explains that the overall approach of the Access Board to accessibility in the sidewalk environment has been to inform and educate transportation interests in the expectation that they will incorporate accessibility criteria into industry documents and standards. The Access Board plans to re-evaluate the effectiveness of this approach next year and, if they haven't seen progress on access issues, they may move more quickly to publish a final regulation.
For information or technical assistance from the Access Board, call their toll-free number 800-USA-ABLE (-872-2253; TTY: 800-993-2822) which operates daily from 10 am-5:30 pm, except Wednesday afternoons, or call 202-272-5434 (TTY: 202-272-5449); E-mail ; FAX: 202-272-5447; their address is 1331 F St., NW, Suite 1000, Washington, D.C. 20004-1111.
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