Model X Pushbutton Station

Several years ago, when Polara Engineering developed their Model X, a pushbutton station designed to work in concert with pedestrian-activated amber signals or the in-pavement illuminated pedestrian crossings, they were advised that persons with vision loss should not and could not use these innovative new mid-block crossing signals. Orientation & Mobility (O&M) specialists recommended against such usage by their students and clients for basic safety reasons.
 
As the overhead amber pedestrian signals became a more prevalent part of the Canadian landscape, we began to notice their presence at many previously uncontrolled intersections. This was a very different approach to that of the US which employed such signals at mid-block crossings only. After some careful reflection, it appeared installing these overhead amber pedestrian signals along major roadways at intersections with quieter cross streets made good sense. These signals were often installed at intersections or crosswalks near schools, community centres, recreation facilities, seniors' centres and the like.
 
Prior to the installation of these signals, pedestrians who were blind or sight-impaired could cross at these intersections provided they exercised extreme caution and employed proper O&M skills for uncontrolled intersections. But, it quickly became evident that pedestrians with vision loss were overlooked completely in the design or installation of these pedestrian-activated amber signals. We began to ask, "Where are the accessible features for these signals so that pedestrians who were blind or sight-impaired could utilize them too?"
 
With these overhead amber pedestrian signals in place, the ability of a pedestrian with vision loss to safely cross at such intersections was now completely eliminated as motorists would be expecting the flashing amber signals to be activated when a pedestrian was crossing. Attempting to cross without the signals activated would be extremely dangerous and, without accessibility features, a pedestrian with vision loss would not be able to locate or activate the pushbutton station.
 
With these concerns in mind, Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers approached Polara Engineering's development team with some suggestions regarding the inclusion of specific accessibility features in their Model X pushbutton stations. The inclusion of an acoustic locator tone and a verbal message (that would clearly advise the pedestrian that this crossing differed from that of a fully controlled intersection) would make these overhead amber pedestrian crossings fully accessible. However, a pedestrian who is blind or sight-impaired must still exercise caution and employ basic O&M skills to ensure traffic has stopped before proceeding into the crosswalk. Our ability to locate and activate these signals now puts us on a level playing field and gives us the option of making use of these street crossings.
 
An obstacle emerged when the signal manufacturers introduced their solar-powered model. The challenge was to develop a pushbutton station that was capable of delivering an acoustic locator tone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, when its only source of energy was from a solar-powered battery. Polara Engineering rose to the challenge by introducing a pushbutton station which draws from the same solar-powered source. To accommodate a lower draw on the solar battery, the acoustic locator tone was reduced to 2 second intervals (30 tones per minute) combined with a verbal crossing message. When a pedestrian presses the activation button on the Model X, the amber pedestrian signals begin to flash immediately. Traffic is expected to slow to a stop as they approach the intersection/crosswalk. Although the Model X is capable of repeating this verbal message up to 4 times, we are recommending 3 repetitions as sufficient for most crossings.
Additional information regarding this unique device is available when you visit "Features of the Model X Pushbutton Station". The Model X pushbutton station is cousin to Polara Engineering's Navigator II, another example of leading edge technology in the field of accessible pedestrian signals. For additional information, visit Navigator II Overview.

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