Accessible Pedestrian Signals

Accessible pedestrian signals (APS) and detectors are designed to accommodate the needs of all pedestrians, including those with vision and mobility impairments. They provide information in nonvisual formats such as audible tones, speech messages, and vibrating surfaces to indicate the appropriate time for pedestrians to cross the street.

  • Integrate the addition or upgrades of accessible pedestrian signals into routine signal maintenance and streetscape projects
  • At locations with lots of foot traffic, time pedestrian phases to come up automatically and keep signal cycles short (ideally 90 seconds maximum)
  • Follow the location, design, and maintenance requirements of accessible pedestrian signals as detailed in the proposed PROWAG guidelines and APS Guide to Best Practices, which include some of the following:
    • Accessible pedestrian signal shall provide both audible and vibrotactile indications of the walk interval
    • Preferred locations are on two separated poles located within 5’ of the crosswalk line farthest from the center of the intersection
    • Preferred audible walk indication is a rapid ticking sound
    • If two accessible pedestrian push buttons are placed less than 10’ apart or on the same pole, accessible pedestrian push button shall be provided with the following
      • A push button locator tone
      • A tactile arrow
      • A speech walk message for the walk indication
      • A speech push button information message
    • The accessible walk indication shall have the same duration as the pedestrian walk signal except if the pedestrian signal rests in walk
    • In areas with large numbers of senior citizens, post a high-contrast raised-print or largeprint sign of the street name that the push button controls
    • Push buttons should confirm that a pressed button/request for crossing has been received with a “wait” message and a light
  • Makes it easier for visually impaired pedestrians to cross the street
  • Reduces crossings during the don’t-walk phase
  • Allows more crossings in each signal interval
  • Improves crossing speeds for sighted pedestrians
  • Noise pollution
  • Potential pedestrian confusion of the audible locator tone and the walk indication
Where to Use It
  • The proposed draft guidelines for the design, construction, and alteration of pedestrian facilities in the public right-of-way (PROWAG) require accessible pedestrian signals and push buttons whenever pedestrian signals are installed or replaced at signalized intersections
Professional Consensus
  • Section 4E.09 – 4E.13 of the 2009 MUTCD details APS guidance
  • Proposed PROWAG requires accessible pedestrian signals and push buttons when pedestrian signals are installed or replaced at signalized intersections (R209); these guidelines are typically adopted by MUTCD once they become final

The Accessible Pedestrian Signals: A Guide to Best Practices provides case studies for 12 U.S. cities and jurisdictions that have implemented APS as of 2007, including:

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.