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Pushbutton Locator Tone

A pushbutton locator tone is "A repeating sound that informs approaching pedestrians that they are required to push a button to actuate pedestrian timing and that enables pedestrians who have visual disabilities to locate the pushbutton." (MUTCD 2000; 4E.08)

The pushbutton locator tone is referred to by different names in manufacturer's brochures. These include:
  • pole locator
  • locator signal
  • locator tone
  • locating tone
  • locator audible
Additional information
Pushbutton locator tones typically sound during the flashing and steady DON'T WALK intervals. A slowly repeating tone or ticking sound is adjusted to be heard no more than 6 to 12 feet (2 to 4 meters) from the push button or to the building line, whichever is less. The locator tone informs pedestrians of the need to push a button, and provides an audible cue to the location of the pushbutton, as well as the destination corner.

In available products, the pushbutton locator tone varies from a click sound to a beep type tone. However, some aspects are standardized by language in the MUTCD 2000. The tone shall repeat at 1 second intervals and shall have a duration of 0.15 seconds or less.

The pushbutton locator tone typically has automatic volume control. A microphone or sensing device is installed in the APS device or in the pedhead to monitor intersection sound levels and adjust the volume of the locator tone, as well as the WALK indication volume. The locator tone is to be adjusted to between 2dB and 5dB above ambient sound levels, measured 36 inches from the pushbutton.

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How used
Pedestrians who are blind who are unfamiliar with an intersection will approach the intersection.
  • Upon hearing the locator tone, or two locator tones if there are two pushbuttons, they will realize that the signal is actuated.
  • Use the signal for alignment information (in locations with audible beaconing)
  • They will probably continue to the curb or curb ramp location, determine their location and alignment, and listen to traffic to become familiar with the intersection layout and sounds.
  • If the pushbutton is not in reach, they will return to the pushbutton locator tone that they believe to be the pushbutton for their crossing.
  • After reaching the pushbutton and checking the arrow alignment to ascertain that the arrow is aligned parallel to the crosswalk they want to use, indicating that it is the correct pushbutton, they will push the button and return to realign to cross the intersection.
  • They may find it necessary to repeat the process if they don't feel they are realigned appropriately when the pedestrian phase begins.
  • As they cross the street, they will begin listening for the pushbutton locator tone for the APS on the opposite side of the street and may home in on it as they reach the last lane of traffic.
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Draft Public Rights-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines 2021.3.2 Locator tone

PROWAAC X02.5.1.2D and X02.5.1.5

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