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Existing MUTCD Guidance on APS

The Millennium Edition of the MUTCD (December 28, 2020 version) contains two sections that pertain to APS. Both sections are reproduced below.

1. Section 4E.06, "Accessible Pedestrian Signals," provides standards on audible tones, verbal messages, and vibrotactile devices.
2. Section 4E.08, "Accessible Pedestrian Signal Detectors," addresses pushbutton design, placement, and locator tones for APS.

Section 4E.06 Accessible Pedestrian Signals

The primary technique that pedestrians who have visual disabilities use to cross streets at signalized intersections is to initiate their crossing when they hear the traffic in front of them stop and the traffic alongside them begin to move, corresponding to the onset of the green interval. This technique is effective at many signalized intersections. The existing environment is often sufficient to provide the information that pedestrians who have visual disabilities need to operate safely at a signalized intersection. Therefore, many signalized intersections will not require any accessible pedestrian signals.

If a particular signalized intersection presents difficulties for pedestrians who have visual disabilities to cross safely and effectively, an engineering study should be conducted that considers the safety and effectiveness for pedestrians in general, as well as the information needs of pedestrians with visual disabilities.

The factors that might make crossing at an intersection difficult for pedestrians who have visual disabilities include: increasingly quiet cars, right turn on red (which masks the beginning of the through phase), continuous right-turn movements, complex signal operations, traffic circles, and wide streets. Further, low traffic volumes might make it difficult for pedestrians who have visual disabilities to discern signal phase changes.

Local organizations, providing support services to pedestrians who have visual and/or hearing disabilities, can often act as important advisors to the traffic engineer when consideration is being given to the installation of devices to assist such pedestrians. Additionally, orientation and mobility specialists or similar staff also might be able to provide a wide range of advice. The U.S. Access Board’s Document A-37, “Accessible Pedestrian Signals,” provides various techniques for making pedestrian signal information available to persons with visual disabilities.

Accessible pedestrian signals provide information in non-visual format (such as audible tones, verbal messages, and/or vibrating surfaces).
Information regarding detectors for accessible pedestrian signals is found in Section 4E.08.


When used, accessible pedestrian signals shall be used in combination with pedestrian signal timing. The information provided by an accessible pedestrian signal shall clearly indicate which pedestrian crossing is served by each device.

Under stop-and-go operation, accessible pedestrian signals shall not be limited in operation by the time of day or day of week.

The installation of accessible pedestrian signals at signalized intersections should be based on an engineering study, which should consider the following factors:

A. Potential demand for accessible pedestrian signals.
B. A request for accessible pedestrian signals.
Traffic volumes during times when pedestrians might be present; including periods of low traffic volumes or high turn-on-red volumes.
C. The complexity of traffic signal phasing.
D. The complexity of intersection geometry.

Technology that provides different sounds for each non-concurrent signal phase has frequently been found to provide ambiguous information.

When choosing audible tones, possible extraneous sources of sounds (such as wind, rain, vehicle back-up warnings, or birds) shall be considered in order to eliminate potential confusion to pedestrians who have visual disabilities.

Audible pedestrian tones should be carefully selected to avoid misleading pedestrians who have visual disabilities when the following conditions exist:

A. Where there is an island that allows unsignalized right turns across a crosswalk between the island and the sidewalk.
B. Where multi-leg approaches or complex signal phasing require more than two pedestrian phases, such that it might be unclear which crosswalk is served by each audible tone.
C. At intersections where a diagonal pedestrian crossing is allowed, or where one street receives a WALKING PERSON (symbolizing WALK) signal indication simultaneously with another street.


When accessible pedestrian signals have an audible tone(s), they shall have a tone for the walk interval. The audible tone(s) shall be audible from the beginning of the associated crosswalk. If the tone for the walk interval is similar to the pushbutton locator tone, the walk interval tone shall have a faster repetition rate than the associated 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 visually-impaired pedestrians to locate the pushbutton.

The accessible walk signal tone should be no louder than the locator tone, except when there is optional activation to provide a louder signal tone for a single pedestrian phase.
Automatic volume adjustment in response to ambient traffic sound level should be provided up to a maximum volume of 89 dB. Where automatic volume adjustment is used, tones should be no more than 5 dB louder than ambient sound.

When verbal messages are used to communicate the pedestrian interval, they shall provide a clear message that the walk interval is in effect, as well as to which crossing it applies.

The verbal message that is provided at regular intervals throughout the timing of the walk interval shall be the term “walk sign,” which may be followed by the name of the street to be crossed.

A verbal message is not required at times when the walk interval is not timing, but, if provided:

A. It shall be the term “wait.”
B. It need not be repeated for the entire time that the walk interval is not timing.

Accessible pedestrian signals that provide verbal messages may provide similar messages in languages other than English, if needed, except for the terms “walk sign” and “wait.”

A vibrotactile pedestrian device communicates information about pedestrian timing through a vibrating surface by touch.


Vibrotactile pedestrian devices, where used, shall indicate that the walk interval is in effect, and for which direction it applies, through the use of a vibrating directional arrow or some other means.


When provided, vibrotactile pedestrian devices should be located next to, and on the same pole as, the pedestrian pushbutton, if any, and adjacent to the intended crosswalk.

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Section 4E.08 Accessible Pedestrian Signal Detectors

An accessible pedestrian signal detector is a device designated to assist the pedestrian who has visual or physical disabilities in activating the pedestrian phase.

Accessible pedestrian signal detectors may be pushbuttons or passive detection devices. Pushbutton locator tones may be used with accessible pedestrian signals.

At accessible pedestrian signal locations with pedestrian actuation, each pushbutton shall activate both the walk interval and the accessible pedestrian signals.

At accessible pedestrian signal locations, pushbuttons should clearly indicate which crosswalk signal is actuated by each pushbutton. Pushbuttons and tactile arrows should have high visual contrast (see the Department of Justice’s Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design, 1991). Tactile arrows should point in the same direction as the associated crosswalk. At corners of signalized locations with accessible pedestrian signals where two pedestrian pushbuttons are provided, the pushbuttons should be separated by a distance of at least 3 m (10 ft). This enables pedestrians who have visual disabilities to distinguish and locate the appropriate pushbutton.

Pushbuttons for accessible pedestrian signals should be located as follows:

A. Adjacent to a level all-weather surface to provide access from a wheelchair, and where there is an all-weather surface, wheelchair accessible route to the ramp;
B. Within 1.5 m (5 ft) of the crosswalk extended;
C. Within 3 m (10 ft) of the edge of the curb, shoulder, or pavement; and
D. Parallel to the crosswalk to be used (see Figure 4E-2).

If the pedestrian clearance time is sufficient only to cross from the curb or shoulder to a median of sufficient width for pedestrians to wait and accessible pedestrian detectors are used, an additional accessible pedestrian detector should be provided in the median.

When used, pushbutton locator tones shall be easily locatable, shall have a duration of 0.15 seconds or less, and shall repeat at 1-second intervals.

Pushbuttons should be audibly locatable. Pushbutton locator tones should be intensity responsive to ambient sound, and be audible 1.8 to 3.7 m (6 to 12 ft) from the pushbutton, or to the building line, whichever is less. Pushbutton locator tones should be no more than 5 dB louder than ambient sound.

Pushbutton locator tones should be deactivated during flashing operation of the traffic control signal.


At locations with pretimed traffic signals or nonactuated approaches, pedestrian pushbuttons may be used to activate the accessible pedestrian signals.
The audible tone(s) may be made louder (up to a maximum of 89 dB) by holding down the pushbutton for a minimum of 3 seconds. The louder audible tone(s) may also alternate back and forth across the crosswalk, thus providing optimal directional information.

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Recommended Pushbutton Locations for Accessible Pedestrian signals. One Curb-Cut Ramps
The name of the street to be crossed may also be provided in accessible format, such as Braille or raised print.

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