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Audible beaconing

Use of an audible signal in such a way that blind pedestrians can home in on the signal from the opposite corner as they cross the street.

PROWAAC defined audible beacon as: "a permanently fixed source emitting sound for directional orientation".

Basic issues and information
A minority of crosswalks require audible beaconing, in which the sound source provides directional orientation. Where audible beaconing is required, the WALK signal is normally louder than any associated locator tone.

MUTCD and PROWAAC recommendations are that the beaconing be called up by special actuation, rather than the APS functioning in the louder mode all the time. The recommended form of special actuation is an extended button press (holding the pushbutton in for a longer period of time). For further discussion, see the section titled "Extended button press".

On-going research may refine these recommendations.

Ways to provide beaconing
Beaconing can be provided in several ways, any of which are initiated for a single cycle by an extended button press. (MUTCD 4E.08 and PROWAAC &,B).
  • The volume of the WALK tone and the subsequent locator tone for one signal cycle may be increased;
  • The audible WALK signal may be alternated back and forth from one end of the crosswalk to the other, or
  • The signal may come from the far end of the crosswalk only.
Installing audible beacons
Audible beacon speakers must be oriented in line with the relevant crosswalk.
  • If the speaker is not carefully oriented, the signal may give ambiguous information about which street has the Walk interval, and ambiguous information for traveling straight across the street.
  • Beaconing is enhanced by the presence of a locator tone that users can home in on as they approach the destination corner, island or median having an accessible pushbutton.
Criteria for use of audible beaconing
Not all crosswalks at an intersection may need beaconing; beaconing may actually cause confusion if used at all crosswalks at some intersections.

Audible beaconing may be needed at:
  • Intersections having skewed crosswalks or irregular geometry such as multiple legs.
  • Crosswalks longer than 70 feet, unless they are divided by a median that has another APS with a locator tone.
  • Crosswalks where APS are requested by individuals with severe veering problems.
Beaconing on demand
PROWAAC recommends that beaconing be available on demand rather than as a constant feature of the device to address noise pollution concerns.

Locations where beaconing is not appropriate
Audible beaconing is not appropriate at locations with free right turns or split phasing, due to the possibility of confusion. See discussion in Location of new construction. Other methods of providing directional guidance, such as tactile guide strips, should be considered at those types of locations.

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