By Nicholas Terry
A Common Experience -
Everyday, disabled pedestrians are faced with the daunting prospect of crossing Britain’s roads safely. Many find current crossing points inadequate, often complaining about the poor positioning of signal boxes, the little amount of time allotted for crossing a road or the general lack of thought given to the layout of the crossing itself, all of which will surely have to be addressed by councils throughout the country sooner or later.
Kerb Drill -
Crossing a road with the aid of traffic lights has become second nature to most of us, it is simple – After pressing a button on the signal box , the pedestrian then walks to the edge of the crossing point until the ‘Green Man’ appears, looks left and right (to be sure the traffic has stopped), then proceeds to cross the road, after which very little thought is given as to how they did so. However, if you apply the same procedure to someone with a disability, it is generally the case that upon approaching the signal box, the person must face additional challenges. The following points highlight this:
Hard Of Hearing :
Visually Impaired :
Wheelchair Users :
Fundamental Issues –
The problem appears to be how accessible the signal box is to the pedestrian, where it is positioned (often too far away from the crossing itself) and the time considered to be able to cross the road, all of which seem to be more applicable to a pedestrian with a disability.
Potential Solution -
Enter Gavin Neate, creator of Neatebox, a company founded on new innovation, which is aimed to assist people with disabilities. Gavin has used something called ‘Proximity Aware Technology’ (designed to be used in a mobile device), to allow pedestrians with a disability to approach a road crossing (more safely) without the need to press the button on a traffic signal box, therefore cutting-out the potentially stressful scenario mentioned earlier in the article.
The device that houses the technology (Mobile Phone), essentially acts as a portable signal box, the ‘control button’ can be activated from the phone by proximity or by physical interaction with the handset itself. After doing so, the device immediately searches for a localised traffic signal which would be found inside any stationary traffic signal box (after installation). After a connection to a particular signal box has been made, the user is then made aware by either a vibration, sound/voice alert or a visual depiction of the ‘Green Man (all of which are useful, depending on the disability) as to when it is safe to cross the road. Having already positioned themselves accordingly, the user is left only to think about awaiting the impending signal from their mobile device, as opposed to worrying about whether there is enough time to walk from the stationary signal box, to the edge of a pavement and then across the road itself, all before the allotted crossing time has ended.
Gavin’s job (training visually impaired people on how to use a guide dog), gives him a unique insight into how someone with such a disability functions when approaching a dangerous road crossing. So far, feedback from 11 people who have already trialed the device (that uses proximity aware technology, instead of GPS or Bluetooth), has been positive.
Future Developments –
Early models are only likely to be available on Apple made devices, such as an iPhone, iPod or iPad (apple being preferred because of a voice accessibility feature), with the possibility of expansion involving Samsung devices. In addition, the inclusion of ‘cloud’ based technology, which could potentially record logistical aspects helping to further future development through the monitoring of a device when in use.
Although the limited trials were successful, the co-operation and feedback from local councils are required in order to promote an understanding as to why the device was created (relating to the inaccessibility, of current signal boxes) and how it will improve the situation in the future.
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We are now in a position to offer a proximity button press to any individual standing or sitting at a pedestrain crossing without the requirement to physically press the control box button. We are hoping that this advancement could be offered to motability vehicle users, wheel chair users as well as the visually impiared or any other pedestrain who has issues accessing the control button.
Please let me know if you are interested to learn more about Neatebox.
Best regards to all.