Learning About Navigational Challenges from Those with Experience


ODOT staff learns firsthand about what work and what doesn’t

Members of ODOT’s central Oregon team gathered recently to attend Commute Options’ inaugural “Walk and Rollabout.” The goal of the event: help road designers learn from people with disabilities how they navigate different features of our transportation system. The gathering offered ODOT’s Region 4 team an unprecedented opportunity to learn from those who use the system – and how to design it to ensure it works best for everyone.

Nancy Stevens and her guide dog Winnie are advocates for the blind community, and they walked participants through the pedestrian features in a roundabout. Stevens explained how it feels and works – or doesn’t work – for people without sight.

Staff members partnered up and donned blindfolds, using a white cane to feel their way across traffic while partners made sure everyone stayed safe. Have you ever tried to cross the street blindfolded? Staff admitted it was scary doing it for the first time. But it was also very revealing. (See photos from the event on ODOT’s FlickR site.)

ODOT employees (above and below) donned blindfolds and used canes to get an idea of what it’s like to navigate an intersection if you are visually impaired.

Different approaches, different challenges: many ways to help

Participants navigated through single and double lane roundabouts, as well as through a rectangular rapid flashing beacon, or RRFB, enhanced crossing. Cascades East Transit bused the group from one location to the other, and several participants kept blindfolds on to continue the experience.

After going through all the scenarios the Commute Options team set up, attendees debriefed with ODOT Region 4 Active Transportation Liaison Chris Cheng and community members with visual impairments and other disabilities. The discussion centered on various features that can be included in road and intersection designs to help people cross safely. Some of the top items on the list include incorporating audible locator tones and directional messages; adding features that help people detect the location of push buttons and curb ramps by cane; and placing push buttons adjacent to curb ramps.

Thank you, Commute Options, attendees and volunteers!

Along with a strong showing from ODOT, participants included representatives from Central Oregon Coalition for Access, the city of Bend, Cascades East Transit, Bend City Council and local media.

The Region 4 team wants to thank Commute Options for hosting this great event. Commute Options is a nonprofit based in Bend, dedicated to transportation options that connect people of all ages to the places they go – employees to their workplaces, students to their schools, and neighbors within their communities. They champion active transportation and infrastructure improvements, fostering essential partnerships, and educating the community on transportation options.

Article written by Kacey Davey

About Author

Shelley Snow is the Strategic Communications Coordinator with Oregon Department of Transportation

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