Public Transportation Information Systems for Passengers who are Vision Disabled

Successful use of public transit requires access to accurate, timely information at every step along the way—from the public way, to the stop/station/ferry terminal/transit center, to the vehicle, to the desired stop/station/ferry terminal/transit center, and to the public way again. A successful trip can involve planning the trip, finding and negotiating the bus stop/station/ferry terminal/transit center, negotiating the fare purchase/payment system, negotiating a fare barrier, anticipating when the bus/train/ferry will arrive, boarding the correct conveyance, getting off at the correct location, exiting the station/ferry terminal/transit center, and knowing the correct action in case of a service disruption. Transit information is typically conveyed in a variety of ways including static maps, digital interactive maps, in-car digital displays, audio announcements, over-the-phone trip planning, website and app-based tools, all of which generally rely on visual cues that are unavailable or difficult to use for people who are vision disabled. People who are vision disabled typically cannot drive, so most of them depend on public transit to travel for work, school, shopping, medical services, to visit family and friends, and for recreation in order to live productive, healthy, and independent lives. The usability of the public transit system is therefore of crucial importance for people who are vision disabled. When traveling to unfamiliar areas or needing to deviate from familiar routes to regular destinations, the task is especially difficult without accessible, timely, user-friendly information. Passenger information is conveyed by various public transit operators in inconsistent ways, many of which are inaccessible to vision disabled passengers, or which may be usable only with special technology that varies in the complexity of the user-interface. Yet accessible passenger information is required by section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. 794) as amended, to the end that no otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. On the other hand, standards and guidance for providing accessible wayfinding information in such documents as Title 49 Transportation, Part 37—Transportation Services for Individuals with Disabilities and Part 38—Accessibility Specifications for Transportation Vehicles, have little to say about how accessible information should be provided. There is no guidance for transit operators to use to determine the most accessible ways to provide traveler information to passengers who are vision disabled, and no tool for evaluation of the accessibility of traveler information. Consequently, there is a need for a comprehensive, up-to-date guidance document to help transit operators make all aspects of their passenger information systems accessible to their passengers who are vision disabled. There is also a need for a measurement or audit tool to help agencies quantify and understand accessibility of traveler information for their systems, and to determine priorities in improving accessibility. The end product of this research will be a guide for making passenger information accessible to and usable by passengers who are vision disabled, including information provided on websites, audible and tactile information provided in stations, and information available via smartphone apps (including GPS). The guide will include information for route planning, as well as traveling all the route segments between the public way and the transit vehicle. The primary focus will be on transit, but the guidance should be applicable to other modes also.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $350000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project B-50

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001

    Federal Transit Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Garcia-Colberg, Mariela

  • Start Date: 20211125
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01789439
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project B-50
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Nov 22 2021 3:16PM