Last month when I crossed the street in Fairfax, I saw a very intriguing curb ramp that caught my attention. I noticed that the material on the slope surface is different than elsewhere. At first I was curious why it was designed that way, then I realized the material for the ramp was rougher compared to the rest of the sidewalk, and it has more friction on the surface. I assumed this is for people who are waiting to across the street and not to slip over the curb, especially on a rainy day. Also, for people who may have a physical disability, this kind of material can help the wheelchair gain more friction as they stop to check the traffic. I was surprised when I saw the detailing on the curb ramp to help people, and I started to pay attention – discovering those little nifty helpful details in my community.
As an Urban Planner, we need to do our best to plan for those who have a disability, making sure they can also have access to and can enjoy a high quality of life. When we deal with open space design, such as recreation areas and pedestrian routes, we need to pay more attention in these details. For example, we use Metro as our daily commute and we notice that the metro station does a really good job in providing accessibility: from going down to the train level to getting onto the train.
I found a handbook online: Accessibility for the Disabled – A Design Manual for a Barrier Free Environment.
This book mainly talked about 5 target disability categories:
(a). Wheelchair users
(b). People with limited walking abilities
(c). The sightless
(d). The partially sighted
(e). The hearing impaired
In the urban design consideration, it divided into 10 chapters:
- Platform lifts
- Railings and handrails
The book has many details of the accessibility that we probably haven’t noticed before such as a barrier-free path for the safety and independence of disabled people; symbols of a wheelchair figure with either a square background or a square border. It gives principals about obstructions, signage, street furniture, pathways, curb ramps, etc.
In another article: Technological Innovations in Transportation for people with Disabilities
It talked about using technological advancement to help people with disability, and other technologies that could provide board safety and mobility benefits for pedestrians. Also, target assistive technologies to improve accessible transportation for people with vision impairment and other disabilities. There are 6 topics:
- Triggering a Virtuous Circle of Self-sustaining Accessibility and Transportation.
- Environmental Awareness for People with Visual Impairments-Gaps, Challenges and opportunities.
- Getting there is you are blind: Synergistic convergence of technologies to improve wayfinding.
- Using robotic and artificial intelligence to improve mobility and navigation of people with special needs.
- Opportunities and innovations in ITS and mobile technology for accessible transportation.
- Making technology universally accessible for all users, including those with sensory and cognitive impairments.
Accessibility in urban areas is now of more interest to me. I will continue reading the handbook but also figure out how it applies in reality.
Putting all of this into practice, Nspiregreen is currently working with the District Department of Transportation on a project called Inclusive Transit – accessDC. The study will identify ways to give people with disabilities and aging adults in DC better access to multiple transportation services, allowing for greater mobility with dignity and independence, and easier integration in the community. I am happy to be a part of a project to make transportation options better for disabled people.