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Designing for Pedestrians with Disabilities:  

Disabled? You're not alone. An estimated 85% of Americans living to full life expectancy will experience some sort of permanent disability sometime in their lifetime. Thankfully, the Americans With Disabilities Act has paved the way for some significant improvements for the 43 million Americans who are disabled. Signed into law on July 26, 1990, the ADA marked a landmark in civil rights, mandating that disabled persons will have full access to all public facilities in the United States.

"One-fifth of the people in this country currently have a disability. When we build something improperly, we're leaving that one-fifth out," notes Barbara McMillen, Transportation Specialist with the FHWA. "Accessibility, project development, and construction must all come together. It's a safety issue. We need to make pedestrian facilities more usable for everyone."

In response to the ADA and the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), the U.S. Department of Transportation has drafted a policy statement calling for measures that will serve to develop a transportation infrastructure that provides access for all, a real choice of modes, and safety in equal measure for each mode of travel.

In designing pedestrian facilities, architects and engineers must balance consider a wide-ranging set of concerns to accommodate the three major categories of disabilities: sensory, mobility, and cognitive. What works for one group in one situation may present a problem for another. For instance, a sloping curb may accomodate persons in wheelchairs but may not be easily detected by a visually impaired person's white cane. Tactile pads at intersections may cause pedestrians to trip if they are wearing heels or if it is raining outside. Designing safe pedestrian facilities for everyone is a complex process and these are a few of the challenges it poses:

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