I'm pleased to see the DOT placing more emphasis on accessibility and developing this framework. It is extremely important to get all offices of the DOT on board and speaking the same language regarding accessibility issues. I hope there will be training at all levels, for those in district offices as well as various regional offices. At times information from DOT and FHWA has seemed to support new infrastructure and changed to intersections and signals without recognizing the effect of such changes on individuals with disabilities. For example, last week there was a promotional piece for the STEP program promoting Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs). The video discussed how simple and inexpensive the changes were and the improvements for pedestrians. However, there was no mention (or inclusion in the video) of an accessible pedestrian signal. Without an accessible pedestrian signal present, the introduction of the LPIs leaves blind pedestrians beginning to cross when the traffic begins moving rather than when the WALK is first displayed. This results in the blind pedestrians stepping out just as the drivers begin to move and turn across the crosswalk. Drivers have at that point decided the pedestrian wasn't going to cross because they didn't begin crossing with others at the beginning of WALK. (see Letter to the Editors, published in August 2018 ITE Journal, page 10 and 11, related to May 2018 ITE Journal, "Guidance on Signal Control Strategies for Pedestrians to Improve Walkability"). Accessibility issues need to be considered and integrated into all material published by DOT and FHWA!
The emphasis on complete trip is welcome and necessary. Frustration with barriers that prevent safety completing a trip is a concern that is commonly heard from people with disabilities. And design of new projects with all users in mind is essential. There seem to be many new alternative intersection designs being proposed, as well as innovated separated and shared bike lanes. These facilities often introduce new complexities that make travel difficult for individuals who are blind or who have low vision. Wayfinding issues need attention to design details; they are not all solvable just with information and technology. And wayfinding information provided by the design of the sidewalks can be helpful to blind pedestrians as well as those with cognitive disabilities.
While innovation can be good, it's important that innovations be tested with the population they are intended to serve. There seem to be a lot of inventions to help people who are blind that work well when used by a sighted person/engineer/inventor, but don't actually provide the information needed by a person who is blind, or are too difficult to access to be useful.
In the discussion of people with sensory disabilities, there is a statement that audible directions and audible street crossing buttons can help those with visual impairments. Please note that it's not just the audible "buttons", but access to the pedestrian signal that is essential. With the complexity and changeability of today's signal systems, pedestrians who are blind or who have low vision can no longer rely on the movement of traffic to make decisions about the proper time to begin to cross. They need access to the pedestrian signal information.