Choosing a Livable Community

Your home is easy to change, but you may wonder about your neighborhood. Most likely, your community has many features you may not have noticed before to help you get around and stay active.

What constitutes a livable community? According to AARP, the key elements are housing, transportation, health, environment, neighborhood, engagement, and opportunity. But you have to think about what matters to you. Below are some considerations about getting around.

Accessible Pedestrian Signals

In today’s age, when cars are getting quieter, it is becoming critical that engineers and city planners consider the safety of pedestrians with physical impairments, including low vision. In many cities, older, smaller street signs are being replaced with larger ones to help those who are blind or low vision, and difficult street crossings are being outfitted with Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS). APS provides sound and/or tactile information, which works with visual pedestrian signals to let pedestrians who are blind or have low vision know when the WALK signal is on. Audible APS signals include sounds such as a rapidly repeating tone, speech message, or birdcall. New types of APS provide a pushbutton locator tone that repeats once per second to help blind pedestrians find pedestrian pushbuttons, which often must be used to activate a WALK signal and to program enough time into the cycle for pedestrians to cross the street.

APS provides information to help people who are blind or low vision recognize the beginning of the walk interval and begin crossing the street at the correct time. Pedestrians who enter the crosswalk during the flashing or steady DON’T WALK signals are not crossing legally in most states, so it is important to begin crossing when WALK is displayed. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires access to the public right-of-way for people with disabilities. If you’re an independent travler, most intersections will pose little difficulty for you. Still, there are many situations where the information provided by the WALK signal and/or an APS is necessary. These might include locations where the signal cycle is complex and difficult to determine by listening, where special pedestrian phases are installed, or where traffic is intermittent and does not provide good cues.

If you feel an intersection or crossing in your neighborhood needs an accessible pedestrian signal, request one by writing to the jurisdiction in charge of signals in your community.

As always, learning to take advantage of APS and other street-crossing skills from an Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialist is best.

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All Aboard: Accessible Mass Transit

Public mass transit is one of the best and safest means of travel for people who are blind or low vision. Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of what options are available to you.

Get on the Bus

Many people who are blind or low vision make regular use of their local bus system. It’s inexpensive, drivers are usually prepared to offer assistance when necessary and requires no reservation or special arrangements. Still, it’s very important to plan for trips ahead of time when using the bus. Call the bus company or public transit authority and get the correct information about what bus you must take, when, and on what side of the street you must wait. Without these details, you might easily take the wrong bus…or the right bus going the opposite way! Confirm with the bus driver that you have the right bus before you board to avoid such mishaps. Also, be sure to have the correct change for bus fare, a list of phone numbers in case of emergency, and a cell phone (or money for a pay phone).

Again, the bus driver is there to help. Ask him or her to give you a heads-up when the bus is approaching your stop.

Door-to-Door: Para Transit

This curb-to-curb service is designed to meet the needs of individuals who find it difficult or logistically unfeasible to use the services of the regular bus system offered by their hometown or city. (In some areas, conventional public transit is unavailable.)

Typically, Para Transit services require that you fill out an application, which provides specifics on your disability and how it affects your ability to use mass transit. Some services require an in-person interview as well. Once you are certified for Para Transit service, you can use it, although many require calling ahead to provide time and destination.

Regulations for Para Transit vary depending on where you live, so contact your local transportation authority for more information, such as certification, fares, and scheduling requirements.

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