Clever Devices Celebrates 30 Years of the ADA and Accessible Transit

A look at the landmark legislation that changed the transit industry and propelled Clever Devices into a leading provider of accessible transit solutions.

On July 26, 1990, George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. This landmark civil rights legislation put into place protections for individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. For Clever Devices, this legislation is significant for many reasons, most importantly in that it catapulted our company into the world of public transportation.

From Talking Doorbells to Automatic Voice Announcements

Prior to the Americans with Disabilities Act, we were a small company based on Long Island, New York. Back then, we were the Hi-Ho Doorbell Company, manufacturing digital doorbells that played music and other unusual sounds. By 1988, the company was using its digital audio expertise to develop the audio sounds for some of the most popular arcade games of the time. With the passage of the ADA in 1990, it was this audio experience and a desire to branch out into other markets that led us to enter the world of public transportation.

Over the past 30 years, transit agencies across the United States have made great strides in making their vehicles, stations, and platforms more accessible for all members of the public, regardless of ability. Clever Devices has played a significant role in that progress. In fact, in 1997, Clever Devices was the first ITS supplier to install an automated voice announcement system on a public transit vehicle in the United States.

Since then, we’ve continued to make strides to develop ITS solutions that make transit more accessible and safer for all riders:

  • Automatic Voice Announcements (AVA) automates passenger announcements and syncs with LED signage to keep riders informed, making riding the bus more convenient for and independent for hearing or visually disabled passengers.
  • CleverVision Onboard Digital Signage allows you to deliver real-time information and visual public service announcements for a fully immersive customer experience from beginning to end.
  • Our Wayside Signage solutions are ADA compliant and can be configured to chirp to notify visually impaired passengers to the presence of a sign and guide them to the location of a button to push to get audio information about route and arrival details.
  • The Turn Warning™ pedestrian warning system sends an audible message telling walkers that a bus is turning, increasing pedestrian safety and making turning easier for drivers.

Life Before the Americans with Disabilities Act

Care for those with disabilities has changed vastly and improved significantly over the United States’ development as a modern nation. Up until the mid-20th century, there was little in the way of formalized protection and support for disabled individuals wishing to live life independently. The responsibility for care often fell to families or organized institutions, which could not offer much in the way of support for a disabled person hoping to become an independent member of society. However, after World Wars 1 and 2, the Korean War, and an increase in industrial accidents resulting in physical disabilities, rehabilitation services, and social programs grew to help support those returning from war and those previously employed. New developments in medical technology allowed those with disabilities more freedom and physical mobility, and the ability to lead a productive life outside of institutions. Organizations for the disabled continued to be advocates for legislative and policy change, paving the way for more services and support for people with limb differences, mobility challenges, and different abilities.

How Did the ADA Change Public Transit?

In order to be compliant with the ADA, transportation systems must address several requirements, including providing assistance equipment and accessible features, allowing adequate time to board, permitting service animals onboard, designating priority seating, and training operators.

Additionally, a public transportation system must provide adequate information on service in accessible formats for persons with disabilities. Stops must be announced at transfer points, major intersections, and destination points so that people with visual impairments understand their location. In addition, the operator must announce any stop at the request of a rider with a disability. Vehicles must also have destination and route information on the front and boarding sides of a vehicle.

The Future of Accessible Transit

We’ve come a long way as an industry in terms of the work that has been done to make transit more accessible. As technology has rapidly advanced in the last 30 years, new opportunities for accessibility have arisen, and new hurdles have appeared.

While 98.97% of fixed-route buses are accessible, getting to and from buses remains challenging in some communities. Transit agencies are responsible for the vehicle’s condition and accessibility; however, the bus stops and pathways are often under the jurisdiction of a local municipality. Stops may lack sound and leveled pads, and shelters may predate the ADA and lack space for those who use wheelchairs. The pathways leading to bus stops may not be stable or level or may lack curb ramps, preventing those with mobility issues from safely navigating them.

Numerous technological innovations are poised to make transit more accessible and convenient for all riders, including developments like apps and ridesharing services. The concept of mobility-as-a-service packages integrated mobility solutions into a single app or other digital platform and provides services from public and private mobility providers. A user would be able to buy a trip from a solution that meets their current needs and takes them seamlessly all the way to the desired destination. Services that help alleviate the stress of navigating the first mile and last mile of a public transit trip can be a boon to accessibility.

Despite how far we’ve come, there is still much work to be done in continuing to extend accessibility in both urban and rural areas for those who rely on public transportation to move freely from place to place. As such, our mission to partner with transit agencies to help deliver that service continues.

To learn more about how Clever Devices can help your agency improve accessibility onboard your vehicles, contact us today to schedule a demo.

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