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Designing for Pedestrians with Disabilities:  Sensory

Sensory disabilities represent the portion of our population with some degree of hearing loss or deafness; the colorblind; and those with visual impairments or blindness.

The average deaf person does not require special pedestrian facilities."There are fewer pedestrian concerns for the deaf community, certainly," says Lois Thibault of Access Board in Washington, D.C. "Some elements such as a visual/audible vibrotactile are in place. Designers and engineers should take special precautions when considering a no-stop intersection, and would need to do a test for hearing there."

But many deaf persons have multiple disabilities, often mobility or cognitive. Some older Americans experience hearing losses due to age. Those with multiple disabilities may be physically slower, or may have a longer decision making process when crossing the street with less audio information to go on.

Deaf children are another category entirely. As kids they may pay less attention to cars and traffic signals, and should be taught excellent pedestrian skills from an early age. At some schools for the deaf around the country, signs alert motorists to watch for children with significant hearing losses.

Blindness and visual impairments represent another widespread category, ranging from those with colorblindness to the totally blind. The concerns of this group are therefore far-reaching, ranging from safe crossing to obstacles in the sidewalk or roadway to improved access to transit. Finding solutions that are practical and agreeable to all transportation officials, planners and engineers, advocates and members of the visually impaired community has been anything but simple, however.

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