Accessible Pedestrian Signals
Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS), formerly known as audible pedestrian signals, advise pedestrians who are blind, visually impaired, or deaf-blind when they have the right-of-way to cross at a signalized intersection and in which direction they may cross the intersection. The City currently has 845 signalized intersections equipped with APS. City staff is working towards retrofitting additional signalized intersections with APS in 2018.
Accessible Pedestrian Signals are linked to the visual pedestrian signals. The APS advise the blind, visually impaired, and deaf-blind when they have the right-of-way to cross the street at a signalized intersection and in which direction they may cross the intersection.
Two audible tones are used to indicate the direction in which the pedestrian has the right-of-way.
- A cuckoo sound (accompanied by the walking person display) indicates that the pedestrian can cross in the north/south direction.
- A chirp sound (accompanied by the walking person display) indicates that the pedestrian can cross in the east/west direction.
At some signals, the APS operates automatically. At other signalized intersections, a pedestrian pushbutton must be pushed and held for at least three seconds. If the button is not held down for at least three seconds, the audible sound will not be activated even though the walking person display appears.
Some signals are equipped with left-turn green arrow phases. During this phase the visual walk is displayed on the non-conflicting side. The audible tones will not come on until the left-turn phase has ended and both visual walk displays are on. This is to avoid pedestrians, who are blind or visually impaired, from mistaking the audible tone on the non-conflicting side for the conflicting side.
In addition to the “cuckoo” and “chirp” sounds, some signals are equipped with a continuous tone called a “locator tone.” This tone is emitted from the pushbuttons to assist pedestrians, who are blind or visually impaired, in locating the pushbuttons. Some pushbuttons are equipped with a raised arrow that points in the direction of travel. This arrow vibrates when the APS sounds are activated.
The APS sounds and locator tones automatically adjust to ambient sound levels. Therefore, during peak traffic conditions, they may sound louder; overnight they drop to their lowest volume level.
If you notice that the APS devices are not adjusting to the ambient sound levels or a pushbutton is “stuck”, you can call 311, a crew will be dispatched to correct the problem.
Sample cuckoo sound:
Sample chirp sound:
Sample locator tone:
In 1997, the City started a new program to provide better service to the blind and visually impaired community who find it difficult to cross the roads at signalized intersections. In order to service the needs of this community we had to sensitize ourselves to their unique needs such as:
- pushbuttons and poles should have a uniform location at all intersections to make them easy to find
- pushbuttons should be mounted at the same height
- the face of the push button should be parallel to the crosswalk
- the location of the poles relative to the crosswalk should be consistent
- crosswalk lines should be perpendicular to the curb
All of these features may not be important for pedestrians with normal vision; however, they are significant aids to the blind and visually impaired. The locations of existing poles at most signalized intersections do not meet the needs of the blind and visually impaired. Therefore, our program to install APS would require the relocation of existing poles or the installation of new “mini”-poles.
Relocating existing poles is more costly than installing new “mini” ones. Sometimes the City’s infrastructure may be attached to other agencies’ poles (e.g. Toronto Hydro poles) and relocating these poles may not be an option. Existing poles that are located in the proper locations are reused for the installation of the APS devices.
When installing new signals, we ensure that the poles are placed in such a way that, if the APS feature were to be installed, the installation of additional poles would not be necessary (except in exceptional circumstances).