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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Text and Materials Development
Sandra Rosen

Project Leaders
Terrie (Mary T.) Terlau
Rosanne Hoffmann

Graphics and Photography
Sandra Rosen
Terri Gilmore
Bisig Impact Group

Production Team
Lila Adkins
Cary Crumpton
Darlene Donhoff
Anna Fox
Frank Hayden
David Hines
Karen Marshall
Lou Tingle
Phyllis Williams

Expert Reviewers
Nora Griffin-Shirley
Julie Hapeman
Donna Brostek Lee
Richard Long
Grace Ambrose Zaken

INTRODUCTION

Using public transportation is a way of life for many people, sighted and visually impaired alike. This module focuses on the techniques that travelers who have visual impairments use to safely and efficiently travel in automobiles, buses, and subways. These techniques represent an integrated use of non-cane and long cane skills to perform the complex task of using public transportation. This module is divided into three categories, specifically addressing travel by automobile, city bus, and subway/light rail. In addition to the mobility techniques used in boarding and exiting various modes of transportation, information for the traveler is also provided on how to plan trips, maintain orientation while en route, and negotiate bus stops and subway stations.

Automobile Travel

While it is true that most people who have visual impairments do not drive, there are still a number of skills they must learn with regard to traveling in a car, taxi, or van. While these skills may be taught as an isolated instructional unit, they are often taught as an integral part of community travel instruction taking place in natural environments. Automobile travel skills include methods for safely and efficiently entering and exiting a vehicle, and storing a cane to avoid potential injury to themselves or others. This section covers these methods and also discusses the orientation skills that some travelers who have visual impairments may want to develop to provide directions to a taxi or other driver.

City Bus Travel

City bus travel is arguably the form of public transportation in urban and many rural areas that is most commonly used by people who do not drive. It may be the only, or the most convenient, means of traveling between home and work, school, shopping, or recreation sites. Some cities may have extensive bus service; others may offer only limited routes and schedules. Some cities provide a variety of transportation options including streetcars or light rail, trolleys, and subways in addition to buses. Many of the techniques used in bus travel can be applied to travel on all of these forms of transportation.

Travel on city buses involves a number of complex skills that are usually taught and practiced over a period of time. City bus travel also uses many techniques that are generally provided in earlier instruction. These techniques include long cane and non-cane skills, seating skills, skills for soliciting information, and advanced orientation skills. Furthermore, if it is necessary to travel by foot to or from a bus stop, bus travel may also involve street crossings and route planning.

Subway Travel

Subway systems are generally found in large urban areas. They may be limited to circling or crisscrossing a large urban area. They may also have individual lines that serve outlying cities or suburbs. While the term subway implies underground transportation, many subway systems also have trains that travel on raised tracks over city streets, especially as they reach into more outlying areas. While there are unique dimensions of subway travel such as purchasing fare cards from ticket machines and negotiating platforms, travel on subways uses many of the same cane, non-cane, and other skills as city bus travel.

AUTOMOBILE TRAVEL



PURPOSE

To enter and exit a car, van, or truck

PREREQUISITE TECHNIQUES

Cane Placement (see the Appendices)
Lower Hand & Forearm
Seating
Upper Hand & Forearm (Modified)

TEACHING ENVIRONMENTS

Begin with a vehicle that is familiar to the traveler. Introduce this skill in a parking lot or driveway where there is plenty of room to get in and out of the vehicle and where there is no potential for other vehicles to be moving nearby. Later lessons can introduce entering and exiting an automobile that is parked near other vehicles.

Practice getting in the front and rear seats of vehicles and stress similarities and differences in procedures.

Note: When teaching the traveler how to enter and exit the rear seat, it is generally easier to do so in a four-door vehicle. Therefore, it may be helpful to begin with a four-door automobile and then progress to a two-door automobile.

SKILLS

Front Passenger Seat

The standard methods of entering and exiting the front passenger seat of an automobile (or rear seat of a four-door automobile)

Entering.

  1. Using her cane and/or the LOWER HAND & FOREARM technique, the traveler locates the vehicle and determines if there is room to open the door without contacting the curb, a pole, or a vehicle parked nearby.
    • If necessary, the traveler can identify which direction a vehicle is facing by using any of following methods:
      • — Windshield wipers are located on the front window.
      • — The side mirrors are at the front of the vehicle.
      • — The door handle is located directly in front of the door edge (with the exception of sliding doors on vans where the handle is located directly behind the door edge).
      • — Headlights and taillights can be distinguished by shape and size.
      • — The shape of the front and rear ends are easily distinguished in vans and trucks.
  2. Holding the cane in her left hand (the vertical position is often the most comfortable), the traveler locates the door handle with her right hand. The traveler locates the division between the front and rear side windows (or the division between the rear window and rear windshield when entering the back seat) and trails down this division to locate the door handle. In cars, the handle is generally a few inches below the window and a few inches in front of the division. In vans with sliding doors, the handle is located a few inches behind the division (see Figures 1.01a and 1.01b).

    Figure 1.01a
    On most vehicles, the door handle is located immediately in front of the opening edge of the door.
    Figure 1.01b
    On vans with sliding rear doors, the rear door handle is located immediately behind the division between the front and rear doors.
  3. The traveler opens the door and moves forward half of the distance to the door hinge to position herself next to the seat. She then either
    • transfers the cane to her right hand and locates the roof edge using the UPPER HAND & FOREARM (Modified) technique with her left arm (see Figure 1.02), or

      Figure 1.02
      The traveler locates the roof edge using the UPPER HAND & FOREARM (Modified) technique.
    • keeps the cane in her left hand and locates the edge of the car roof with the cane grip or shaft (keeping the cane vertical; see Figure 1.03a). She then transfers the cane to her right hand (see Figure 1.03b).


      Figures 1.03a and 1.03b
      The traveler locates the edge of the car roof with the cane grip or shaft. She then transfers the cane to her right hand.
    • Locating the edge of the roof tells the traveler exactly where it is located so that she will not bump her head on it when entering the vehicle.
  4. If the vehicle door does not stay open on its own, the traveler can
    • hold it open using the back of her cane hand while she enters the automobile (see Figure 1.04a), or
    • she can hold her cane between her thumb and index finger and hold the door with her remaining three fingers (see Figure 1.04b).

      Figure 1.04a
      The traveler holds the door open using the back of her cane hand.
      Figure 1.04b
      The traveler holds her cane between her thumb and index finger and holds the door open with her remaining three fingers.
  5. Maintaining contact with the roof edge at least until she has ducked her head below it, the traveler reaches in and "clears" the seat with her left hand to make sure that there is nothing on it.
  6. The traveler sits down by
    • stepping into the vehicle with her left foot first. She can use her free hand to locate the dashboard or the back of the front seat for balance and as a reference point if she wishes. She can also maintain contact with the roof edge for support as she sits down;
    • turning to face away from the seat and then sitting down onto it. She maintains hand contact with the roof edge as she does so, and she can also use the roof edge for support if she wishes. The traveler then brings both legs into the vehicle as she turns to face forward.
      • — This latter method is often preferred by seniors and people who have balance concerns.
  7. She then brings her cane into the vehicle. She places the cane tip next to the toes of her right foot and then rests the shaft on her right shoulder.
    • If the cane is too long to fit into the vehicle in this manner, the traveler can bring the grip end of the cane into the vehicle first, followed by the tip end.
    • Bringing the cane in after she is seated keeps the cane from getting in the way of others already seated in the vehicle.
    • Positioning the cane in this way also keeps it out of the way of the closing door.
  8. Holding the cane shaft with her left hand, the traveler closes the door, then lowers her cane to rest between the seat and the closed door (see Figure 1.05a). Although some travelers may choose to rest the cane shaft on their shoulder (see Figure 1.05b), some voice concern that the cane could become a projectile in case of an accident.

    Figure 1.05a
    The traveler rests her cane between the seat and the closed door.
    Figure 1.05b
    The traveler rests the cane shaft on her shoulder.
    • If other people are present, the traveler should first verbally indicate her intention to close the door. This alerts others to be certain that they are not in a position to be injured by the closing door.
  9. The traveler buckles her seat belt.

Exiting.

  1. Holding the cane shaft securely with her left hand, the traveler opens the automobile door slowly and, if necessary, holds it open.
    • She may need to verbalize her intention to open the door, then pause to allow other people to move out of the way.
    • She opens the door slowly so that she doesn't scratch any vehicle that is nearby and doesn't scratch the automobile door on nearby trees, posts, or other objects.
  2. The traveler "clears" the area outside of the door with her cane.
  3. The traveler places either one or both legs outside of the automobile and locates the roof edge with her left hand. She may keep her hand in contact with the roof edge while exiting or, after locating the roof edge, she may place her left hand on the seat for support while rising.
    • If it is necessary to hold the door to keep it from closing, she can hold her cane vertically against the door with her right hand while she locates the roof with her left hand. Keeping her right hand in contact with the top of the door will generally give the traveler the best physical leverage to hold the door open while rising to stand as she exits the vehicle.
    • A traveler with good kinesthetic awareness may not need to keep her hand on the roof edge as a reference point (to avoid bumping her head) while exiting.
  4. The traveler exits the vehicle and closes the door, making certain that other people are clear of the closing door.
    • If other people are present, the traveler should first verbally indicate her intention to close the door.

Back Seat of a Two-Door Automobile

The standard method of entering and exiting the rear passenger seat of a two-door automobile

Note: Although not absolutely necessary, this method is most easily performed if another person holds the door open while the traveler enters the automobile. Also, the directions below are written assuming that the traveler is entering on the passenger side of the vehicle. If she enters on the driver's side, then the terms "left" and "right" should be reversed.

Entering.

  1. The traveler performs steps 1-4 of the method for entering the front seat of an automobile. She may not need to move forward half of the distance to the door hinge, however, since she will not be sitting in the front seat.
  2. The traveler uses either the LOWER HAND & FOREARM or the UPPER HAND & FOREARM (Modified) technique with her free hand to locate the upright portion of the front seat.
  3. The traveler moves the upright portion of the front seat forward and out of the way. If necessary, she continues to hold onto the roof edge as a reference point so she will not bump her head on the roof when she bends down to move the seat forward.
    • If the seatback does not move forward easily, the traveler may need to trail down the seatback to the release lever that is generally located on the bottom and door side of the seatback. In some older model vehicles, pressing or pulling the lever will cause the entire front seat to move forward.
  4. The traveler then "clears" the seat with her free hand to make sure that there is nothing on it.
    • The traveler may choose to simply reach into the vehicle to locate and clear the seat; or, if she finds it more comfortable, she may step into the auto with her left foot (assuming that she is entering on the passenger side), then locate and clear the seat.
  5. The traveler sits down and then places her cane tip next to the toes of her right foot. She then either lowers the cane shaft to rest on the seatback next to the side wall of the automobile or rests the cane shaft on her shoulder.
    • Sitting down before bringing her cane in the vehicle helps to ensure that it won't poke someone already in the vehicle.
  6. The traveler buckles her seat belt.

Exiting.

  1. After verifying that any person in the front seat has exited the automobile, the traveler releases the upright portion of the front seat to move it forward by using the release lever located at the base of the upright portion of the seat. In some older vehicles that do not have such levers, the traveler simply pushes the seat forward.
  2. The traveler brings her cane out of the vehicle and clears. Holding her cane in the hand nearest the door, the traveler locates the roof edge with her free hand, and steps out of the automobile.
    • She may keep her hand in contact with the roof edge as a reference point (to avoid bumping her head) or place it on the upright portion of the front seat for support while exiting. A traveler with good kinesthetic awareness may not need to keep her hand on the roof edge while exiting.
  3. The traveler closes the door making certain that other people are clear of it.
    • If other people are present, the traveler should first verbally indicate her intention to close the door. This alerts other people to be certain that they are not in a position to be injured by the closing door.

COMMON ERRORS AND CORRECTIONS

Error:
The traveler holds her cane in the same hand that she is using to open the door.

Correction:
The traveler should hold the cane in her free hand while she opens the door. This keeps her cane out of the way and prevents her from losing control of it as she opens the door.

Error:
The traveler fails to clear the seat before sitting down.

Correction:
Clearing the seat before sitting down enables the traveler to verify that the seat is empty before she sits down.

Error:
The traveler fails to locate the edge of the roof before she bends down to clear the car seat.

Correction:
Locating the car roof before bending down to clear the car seat prevents the traveler from hitting her head on the roof as she bends down.

Error:
The traveler places her cane in the car before she sits down.

Correction:
The traveler should sit down before placing her cane in the car. This makes it easy to store the cane near the car door where it is readily accessible and it also keeps the cane from getting in the driver's way.

Error:
The traveler fails to clear with her cane before stepping out of the car.

Correction:
Clearing with her cane before stepping out of the car prevents the traveler from tripping on an object immediately beside the car door.

NOTES FOR TEACHERS

RELATED TECHNIQUES

None

CITY BUS TRAVEL



PURPOSE

To travel on city buses and streetcars

PREREQUISITE TECHNIQUES

Cane Placement (see the Appendices)
Seating
Shortened Cane
Stairs with a Cane
Touch & Drag (to locate bus pole)
Touch Trailing (to follow side of bus to locate door)
Upper Hand & Forearm

TEACHING ENVIRONMENTS

Introduce city bus travel by taking a short ride on a relatively empty bus or streetcar.

Initially, practice catching buses and/or streetcars from stops where only one line stops. Progress to catching buses and/or streetcars from stops where several different lines stop.

Lead up to taking crowded buses or streetcars (e.g., rush hour travel) and to routes that require transferring to a second bus.

SKILLS

Standard

The standard methods of boarding, riding, and exiting city buses and streetcars

Locating the Bus or Streetcar Stop

  1. In the absence of detecting other landmarks to indicate the location of the stop (e.g., sign pole, bench), the traveler can first walk to the nearest perpendicular street and then return by following the curb edge of the parallel street until she locates the stop.
    • Most bus stops are located near the corner. The perpendicular street, therefore, establishes a reference point from which to begin searching for the bus stop.
    • In a familiar area, the traveler may not need to locate the perpendicular street before looking for the bus stop.
  2. The traveler uses the TOUCH & DRAG technique, to follow the curb and locate the bus pole (if present).
    • If a shelter or bench are present, the traveler can locate it by using the TOUCH & DRAG technique to follow either the inside edge of the sidewalk or to follow the curb (assuming that the traveler knows where the shelter or bench is placed). Auditory clues to indicate the location of a shelter or bench might include such things as reflected sound from the cane tip, or the sounds of people waiting in the shelter or sitting on the bench.

Positioning at the Bus or Streetcar Stop

  1. The traveler stands 1-2 feet back from the edge of the curb (for safety). She faces the street, angled slightly toward the direction from which the bus or streetcar will approach. She holds her cane in the vertical or semi-vertical position in her left hand while waiting for the bus or streetcar.
    • If she stands too far away from the curb or does not face the direction of the oncoming traffic, the driver may not realize that the traveler is waiting for the bus or streetcar. Conversely, standing too close to the curb may cause the driver to stop the bus or streetcar several feet from the curb, thereby interfering with traffic and making it necessary for the traveler to step into the street to reach the door.
    • Holding the cane in the vertical or semi-vertical position in her left hand ensures that
      • — the cane will be ready for use when the bus or streetcar arrives;
      • — the cane will not interfere with nearby pedestrians;
      • — the traveler's right hand will be free to hold money, to trail the stair railing, and to deposit the fare.
    • If a sign pole is present at the bus stop, the traveler should stand next to it in such a position that the pole does not block the driver's view of her cane (see Figure 2.01).

      Figure 2.01
      The traveler stands such that the sign pole does not block the driver's view of her cane.
    • Standing next to the pole also positions the traveler at the approximate point where the bus or streetcar door will usually open. This facilitates locating the door.
      • — If a pole is not present, the traveler can use distance awareness (in a familiar area) and traffic clues to position herself properly at the stop.
      • — In some areas there may be more than one bus or streetcar line that loads and unloads passengers at the same stop. If this is the case, the traveler may need to trail a distance of one vehicle length (or more) from the pole to locate the bus or streetcar that is positioned later in line.
      • — If the traveler misses the bus or streetcar and realizes that she may have a long wait, she may choose to find a seat on a bus bench and reposition herself a few minutes before the next bus or streetcar is due to arrive.

Identifying and Hailing the Bus or Streetcar

  1. The traveler can use the following cues to identify the approach of the bus or streetcar:
    • — Sound of metal wheels on streetcar tracks
    • — Distinctive sound of the bus engine or air brakes
    • — Distinctive sound of the streetcar
    • — Sound of air brakes, tire sounds, transmission sounds
    • — Sound of pedestrians moving toward the curb or tracks
    • — Sound of doors opening
    • — Sound of the coin box through an open door

    If the traveler wishes, she can also request pedestrian assistance to identify the approach of the specific bus or streetcar for which she is waiting.

    If necessary, and as an additional means of attracting the driver's attention, the traveler can raise her hand to hail the approaching bus or streetcar. In some areas where buses do pick up passengers at locations other than regular stops, the traveler will generally need to raise her hand to get the driver's attention.

Locating the Bus Door

  1. The traveler locates the front door of the vehicle by listening for the following sound clues:
    • The sound of passengers boarding or exiting
    • The sound of the bus motor (located at the rear of the bus) as a reference to estimate the distance to the front door
  2. The traveler walks toward the door using the appropriate cane technique.
    • If the bus has stopped away from the curb, the traveler can clear and step down into the street and use the TOUCH technique to locate the bus.
    • If the traveler contacts the side of the bus, she should turn toward the front door and use the TOUCH TRAILING technique to locate the door. The front door is located between the front wheel and the front bumper.

Identifying the Bus Number or Route

  1. If the identity of the bus or streetcar is unknown, the traveler allows other passengers to exit first; then she should ask the driver to verify the route number and/or that it does stop at her desired destination before boarding.
    • If she desires, the traveler may take one step onto the vehicle before asking. This helps to ensure that the driver can hear her questions clearly.
    • The traveler, if she wishes, can also ask a fellow pedestrian to verify the route number.
  2. If it is the correct vehicle, the traveler transfers the cane to her left hand (if it is not there already) and prepares to board; if it is the incorrect vehicle, the traveler steps aside and repositions herself to await the arrival of her desired bus or streetcar.

Boarding

  1. Holding the fare in her right hand and the cane in her left hand, the traveler climbs the steps of the vehicle (if stairs are present) using the STAIRS WITH A CANE technique and simultaneously trails the handrail to the fare box to deposit her fare (see Figure 2.02).

    Figure 2.02
    The traveler trails the handrail to the fare box to deposit her fare.
    • Holding the cane in her left hand and the fare in her right hand makes it easier to trail the handrail and insert her money directly into the fare box when she locates it. In some cities, travelers pay when they disembark. To indicate this, the driver will usually place his hand over the fare box during boarding.
  2. After boarding the bus, the traveler asks the driver
    • for a transfer if needed.
      • — Some buses and streetcars only issue transfers when boarding.
      • — Asking for a transfer when first boarding the bus eliminates the need to travel to the front of the vehicle to obtain a transfer before disembarking. This is especially helpful in areas where passengers typically exit by the rear door.
    • to please call out her stop. While some bus systems provide automatic computerized announcements of each stop, this may not be the case on all buses. If an automatic announcement system is not available, then asking the driver to call out her stop is the most convenient way for the traveler to be informed that the vehicle has arrived at her stop.
      • — As an added measure, the traveler may also want to ask a passenger seated near her seat to tell her when the vehicle approaches the desired stop (in case the driver forgets).
      • — If the bus or streetcar does not stop at her desired destination, the traveler should ask which stop is closest to her destination and whether it is located prior to, or following, her destination. This information will help her determine which way to walk after disembarking to reach her destination.
    • whether or not the seat next to the door is empty. If it is not, the traveler can inquire as to whether or not the seat behind the driver is empty. If this seat is not available, she can ask where the nearest vacant seat is located.
      • — The seat next to the door is often best because it facilitates easy communication with the driver. Also, every time the driver opens the door he will see the traveler sitting there and therefore be less likely to forget to inform the traveler of her stop. If the seat is not vacant, then the seat behind the driver may be the next best choice because it also facilitates easy communication with the driver.
      • — Some travelers prefer not to ask where an empty seat is located, but rather to locate a vacant seat on their own.

Seating

  1. If desired, the traveler may transfer the cane to her right hand after paying the fare.
  2. Using the SHORTENED CANE technique, the traveler moves to her seat.
    • If she wishes, the traveler can also use the UPPER HAND & FOREARM technique to locate the vertical pole next to the stairs or directly behind the driver (the poles serve as convenient landmarks indicating the location of the first seat). If the traveler must travel further back in the vehicle, she can also trail the vertical pole to the horizontal overhead bar (being aware of a possible separation between the vertical pole and the horizontal bar) and hold on to it for balance as she travels down the aisle.
  3. The traveler can verify that no one is sitting in the seat by gently sliding the shaft of her cane laterally across the front edge of the seat. To verify that there are no objects lying on the seat, the traveler "clears" it before sitting down (see the SEATING technique).
    • If the traveler wishes, she can also ask a nearby passenger to verify that the seat is empty.
    • If no seats are available, the traveler should stand in the aisle and grasp a horizontal overhead bar or vertical pole to aid in maintaining her balance while the vehicle is moving.
  4. She sits down and positions her cane using the CANE PLACEMENT technique (see Appendix B).
    • Proper positioning keeps her cane ready for use and avoids having it get in the way of other passengers.

Orientation En Route

  1. When the traveler feels that the bus or streetcar might be nearing her stop (judged by time and/or distance traveled or other cues such as the number of turns that the bus has made), she can politely remind the driver to call out her stop.
    • If a passenger informs the traveler that the bus is approaching her stop, she may pull the bell-cord (or press on the push bar) to signal the driver that she wishes to exit at the next stop. This step is not necessary if the driver informs the traveler that the bus is approaching her stop.
    • If the vehicle stops for more than a minute mid-route and the traveler hears sounds indicating a change of drivers, she will need to ask the new driver to signal her destination unless she is certain that the previous driver has relayed the request.
  2. On a familiar route, the traveler should monitor the progress of the vehicle en route to guard against missing her desired stop should the driver forget to inform her.
    • To do this, the traveler can pay attention to such clues and cues as the number and direction of turns; number and relative location of gradients; number of stops (if a pre-determined number); volume of passengers boarding and exiting; auditory and visual landmarks; passing of certain landmarks (e.g., railroad tracks, a busy intersection, a fountain); time/distance awareness; and combinations of these factors.
    • The traveler can also use a GPS system to monitor the position of the bus along the route and determine when the bus reaches her desired stop.
  3. If the traveler misses her stop, she can get off at the nearest stop and walk back to her stop, or cross the street and take a bus or streetcar traveling in the opposite direction. If she chooses, she can remain on the vehicle until it returns to her stop on the way back or completes a round trip to return to her desired destination. This latter option may work better for some travelers who do not have good orientation or independent travel skills.
    • Buses operate on closed routes (LaGrow & Weessies, 1994). The routes begin at a specific location, travel to a specific destination and then back again; or they operate on a closed loop, beginning and ending at the same point.

Exiting the Bus or Streetcar

  1. The traveler should wait for the vehicle to stop before standing up so that she won't risk losing her balance as the vehicle swings toward the curb or if it stops suddenly.
    • The traveler may grasp a vertical pole or horizontal bar to assist her balance as she stands up.
  2. The traveler moves toward the nearest door (the rear door in some cases) using the SHORTENED CANE technique.
    • If the traveler uses the SHORTENED CANE technique with the Diagonal position, she must leave the cane tip in contact with the floor in order to locate the descending steps at the doorway. She should also hold the cane in her left hand if the door will be on her right side and in her right hand if the door will be on her left side. In this way, as the traveler turns to exit, her cane tip will contact the steps at the doorway before her feet do.
    • After locating the stairs, the traveler can use the UPPER HAND & FOREARM technique with her free arm to locate the vertical pole near the door, if desired.
    • If the traveler exits at a rear door, she may need to press on a push bar located on the door or push on a plate next to the door to open it. This should only be done after the vehicle comes to a complete stop.
    • If the traveler exits at the front door, she can take this opportunity to ask the driver for the following information, if needed:
      • — Is she at the correct destination?
      • — Did the bus stop before or after crossing the intersection?
      • — In which direction should she walk to find the bus or streetcar to which she will transfer?
  3. The traveler walks down the stairs using the STAIRS WITH A CANE technique.
    • She can hold onto the handrail with her free hand if she chooses.
  4. Before stepping down from the last step, the traveler "clears" the ground with her cane to check for obstructions and to locate the curb. The traveler takes a few steps away from the vehicle quickly to make room for other people to exit or board the vehicle.
    • If the vehicle has stopped in the street, the traveler walks to the curb and steps onto the sidewalk as quickly as possible.

GENERAL MODIFICATIONS

The following applies to taking a bus or streetcar, including touring buses and related forms of public transportation, with a human guide.

  1. The guide and traveler use the BASIC HUMAN GUIDE technique to board and exit the vehicle.
    • The traveler may have to raise or lower her grasp on the guide's arm in order to maintain contact while negotiating steep steps on buses or streetcars.
    • If seating is not available, the traveler maintains her grasp or arm contact with the guide; whenever possible she holds onto hand railings, poles, or car walls for support and balance while standing.

COMMON ERRORS AND CORRECTIONS

Error:
The traveler stands on the inside edge of the sidewalk or with the bus sign pole on her left side and does not face in the direction of oncoming traffic.

Correction:
The traveler should stand with the bus sign pole on her right side and should face oncoming traffic. In some cities, bus stop signs are placed on wide poles that can block a bus driver's view of the traveler if she stands so that the pole is between her and oncoming traffic. Standing facing oncoming traffic also makes the traveler and cane more visible and indicates to the bus driver that the traveler is waiting for the bus.

Error:
The traveler fails to ask the driver to verify the bus route or number before boarding.

Correction:
Verifying the bus route or number before boarding prevents the traveler from boarding the wrong bus.

Error:
The traveler holds the cane in her right hand when boarding.

Correction:
The traveler should hold the cane in her left hand when boarding. This frees her right hand to trail the handrail and to locate the fare box most easily.

Error:
The traveler fails to ask the driver for the location of a vacant seat near the door.

Correction:
Asking the driver for the location of a vacant seat near the door prevents the traveler from having to search for a seat unnecessarily and minimizes the possibility that she will disturb passengers already seated.

Error:
The traveler fails to clear the seat before sitting down.

Correction:
Clearing the seat before sitting down prevents the traveler from accidentally sitting on an object that may be lying on the seat.

Error:
The traveler fails to ask the driver to call out her stop.

Correction:
Asking the driver to call out her stop helps to ensure that the traveler will not miss her stop. The traveler can also ask a passenger to call out her stop (as a backup to asking the driver), but it is best not to rely solely on a passenger who might forget or who might get off the bus before the traveler's stop.

Error:
The traveler allows the cane tip to extend into the aisle while she is seated.

Correction:
The traveler should keep the cane tip secured between her feet. This prevents her cane from interfering with other passengers. The traveler can hold the cane either vertically or with the shaft resting on her shoulder.

Error:
When exiting, the traveler holds her cane in the DIAGONAL position with the tip one inch above the floor.

Correction:
When exiting, the traveler should hold the cane with the tip on the bus floor until she locates the edge of the first step. This prevents her from missing the edge and falling down the stairs.

Error:
The traveler uses her right hand to hold the cane in the DIAGONAL position when exiting at the front of the bus.

Correction:
The traveler should use her left hand to hold the cane in the DIAGONAL position when exiting at the front of the bus. This places the cane tip in position to detect the edge of the step at the inside of the turn (where the traveler will contact the steps first).

Error:
When exiting, the traveler fails to clear before she steps onto the curb.

Correction:
Clearing before she steps onto the curb enables the traveler to confirm the location of the curb and to locate any obstacles before she walks into them.

Error:
The traveler fails to take a few steps away from the bus after descending the last step.

Correction:
The traveler should move two to three steps away from the bus after descending to make room for other passengers to get off behind her and to move a safe distance away from the bus before it begins to move.

Error:
While waiting for the bus, the traveler stands on the right side of the pole.

Correction:
The traveler should stand on the left side of the pole. This position keeps the pole from blocking the cane from the bus driver's view.

Error:
The traveler fails to wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before standing up.

Correction:
It is often difficult to maintain one's balance on a moving bus. Waiting until the bus has come to a complete stop before standing up helps to ensure that the traveler will not lose her balance.

Error:
The traveler stands with her toes over the edge of the curb as she waits for the bus to arrive.

Correction:
The traveler should stand at least 12 inches back from the edge of the curb. Standing too close to the curb can sometimes make it difficult for the bus driver to pull up close to the curb. As a result, the traveler then needs to walk a few feet into the street in order to reach the door of the bus.

Error:
The traveler fails to pause and listen for passengers to exit before attempting to board the bus.

Correction:
Pausing and listening for passengers to exit the bus before walking up to the door keeps the traveler from getting in the way of people disembarking.

NOTES FOR TEACHERS

GENERAL INFORMATION

Fares

Obtaining Route and Schedule Information

The traveler can call the transit company and request scheduling and route information. Depending on the traveler's needs, she can ask specific questions as stated in the following list.

A Few Additional Points

SUGGESTED TEACHING SEQUENCE AND CONSIDERATIONS

The Following Sequence is Common

At Bus or Streetcar Stops

Streetcar Stops

At the Bus or Streetcar Barn

Exterior points.

Interior points.

The traveler can use familiarization or self-familiarization techniques to explore the interior of the bus or streetcar at the barn. The traveler should note the features of the bus or streetcar in the following list.

Taking a Trip

RELATED TECHNIQUES

None

SUBWAY TRAVEL



PURPOSE

To travel on subway or elevated transportation systems including light rail systems

PREREQUISITE TECHNIQUES

Cane Placement (see the Appendices)
Seating
Shortened Cane
Touch*
Touch & Drag (to follow platform edge to locate train)
Touch & Slide*
Touch Trailing (to follow the train to locate the door)
Upper Hand & Forearm

* Travelers may choose to use either the TOUCH & SLIDE or the TOUCH (Constant Contact) technique to locate the gap between the platform and the train.

TEACHING ENVIRONMENTS

Introduce subway travel by taking a short ride on a relatively empty subway car.

Initially, practice catching the subway from platforms where only one line stops. Progress to catching the subway from platforms where several different lines stop.

Lead up to taking a crowded subway train (e.g., rush hour travel).

SKILLS

Standard

Locating the station entrance.

  1. The traveler can telephone the transportation company for information on the location of entrance(s) to the subway station (see "Obtaining information from the transit company" under "Notes for Teachers").

    The location of the entrance can sometimes be determined by the sound of pedestrians descending or ascending stairs.

    At times, wind or train sounds may be heard emanating from the station.

Entering the station and platform areas.

  1. The traveler locates the fare card or token machine and purchases her card or token (see Figure 3.01). She then locates the turnstile and pays her fare by inserting the card or token in the appropriate slot.

    Figure 3.01
    Tickets or tokens can be purchased at designated machines in the subway station.
    • Depending upon the layout of the station, the fare box, fare gate, and information booth may be located upstairs, downstairs, or at street level.
      • — It is important to always use the handrail when ascending or descending stairways or escalators in a station. Pedestrians on the stairs or escalator who may be rushing past to catch a train can accidentally bump the traveler.
  2. The traveler enters the platform area. Many travelers prefer to use the Constant Contact method in the platform area because they feel that this method will most reliably detect the edge of the platform should they get too close to it.

    Figure 3.02
    Some stations have a detectable warning surface at the edge of the platform.

Modification

In areas where it is highly congested, the traveler may choose to slow her pace and use the SHORTENED CANE technique if she feels that her cane might pose a tripping hazard to others when fully extended.

Walking Safely on the Platform

  1. Trains are typically boarded from platforms raised above the track and the traveler must be aware of the danger of a drop-off at the platform edge when traveling in these environments (Mueller & Stone, 1990).
  2. Depending on a traveler's skill and confidence, and the presence or absence of a detectable warning surface, the traveler can choose from the following methods for walking safely on a platform:
    • Use the TOUCH & DRAG or TOUCH (Constant Contact) technique (Wiener, 1990) to follow the detectable warning surface along the edge of the platform to the desired spot.
      • — If the traveler hears a train pulling into the station while following the detectable warning surface, she should step away from the platform edge until the train has stopped, then use auditory information to locate the door. If she does not wish to board that train she should wait until the train departs the station before continuing to follow the detectable warning surface to her desired boarding location.
    • If a wall is present that runs along the length of the platform, the traveler can follow it to the desired spot on the platform. If a wall is not present, or if the traveler prefers not to trail it, she should try to stay near the middle of the platform, or at least 3-4 feet away from the platform edge. Standing on the detectable warning surface is never recommended because doing so would place the traveler too close to the edge of the platform.
  3. Upon arriving at her desired boarding location, the traveler stands facing the platform edge at a distance of at least 3-4 feet from it. She positions her cane either vertically or semi-vertically across her body.
    • A distance of 3-4 feet from the platform edge ensures that the traveler maintains a safe distance from the moving train.
    • Holding her cane in either a vertical or semi-vertical position makes her cane visible to others while keeping it out of the way of other people.

Identifying the Approach of the Train

  1. The traveler can identify the approach of the subway by using the following cues:
    • Sound of the engine or the train wheels on the tracks.
    • Wind and vibration created by the approaching train.
    • Some stations have floodlights or signs that blink when the train approaches; some stations will announce the arrival of each train over a loudspeaker system.

Boarding the Train

  1. When the subway train comes to a complete stop, the traveler locates the door by the sound that it makes as it opens, by the sounds of passengers boarding or exiting, and/or of voices coming from inside the train car. When looking for the door, it is often helpful to walk toward the front of the train rather than toward the rear. Walking toward the front of the train makes the traveler's cane more visible to the train operator, who in turn, may be more patient in allowing time for the traveler to board before closing the doors.

    Note: A train may occasionally stop and then move forward to readjust its position at the platform before the doors open.
  2. The traveler allows passengers to exit the car. She then approaches the door using the SHORTENED CANE technique either with the TOUCH (Constant Contact) technique or in conjunction with the TOUCH & SLIDE technique.
    • Using the TOUCH (Constant Contact) or the TOUCH & SLIDE technique helps to ensure that the cane will locate the gap between the train car and the platform edge. The gap can be about 3 inches or so wide.
    • If the traveler contacts the side of the train car, she can use the TOUCH TRAILING technique to locate the doorway. Her cane tip should contact the train car at least 4-6 inches above ground in case the floor of the car is higher than the platform (see Figure 3.03).

      Figure 3.03
      The traveler uses the TOUCH TRAILING technique as she follows the side of the train car to locate the doorway.
  3. Using the SHORTENED CANE technique (TOUCH technique with Constant Contact), the traveler "clears" and then enters the car, being sure to step over the gap.
    • "Clearing" enables the traveler to detect the floor of the car, verifying that she will be stepping into the car and not into the space between subway cars.
    • The Constant Contact method is an efficient way to detect any level differences between the car and the platform that may require the traveler to step up or down.
    • The traveler should never extend her cane downward between the side of the car and the platform in case it contacts one of the high-voltage electric "collector shoes." Collector shoes are devices that are attached to the train and that slide along the rail to transmit electricity to the train motors.

Seating on the Train

  1. Using the SHORTENED CANE technique, the traveler moves to her seat.
    • Often seats nearest the door are reserved for the elderly or for passengers with mobility impairments.
    • If she wishes, the traveler can also use the UPPER HAND & FOREARM technique to locate the vertical pole next to the door (the pole serves as a convenient landmark indicating the location of the nearest seat). If the traveler must move farther back down the aisle, she can also trail the vertical pole to the horizontal overhead bar (being aware of a possible separation between the vertical pole and the horizontal bar) and hold on to it for balance as she does so (see Figure 3.04).

      Figure 3.04
      Vertical poles and horizontal bars can provide support for standing passengers as the train is moving.
    • The traveler can verify that no one is sitting in the seat by gently sliding the shaft of her cane side-to-side across the front edge of the seat (see Figure 3.05). If the traveler wishes, she can also ask a nearby passenger to verify that the seat is empty.

      Figure 3.05
      The traveler verifies that no one is sitting in the seat by gently sliding the shaft of her cane across the front edge of the seat.
      • — If no seats are available, the traveler should stand in the aisle and grasp a horizontal overhead bar or vertical pole to aid in maintaining her balance while the vehicle is moving (the location of the vertical poles may vary in different subway systems).
      • — Passengers should never lean against the doors at any time in case they open unexpectedly.
  2. Upon locating a seat, the traveler first verifies that there are no objects lying on it by "clearing" it using the SEATING technique. She then sits down and positions her cane using the CANE PLACEMENT technique.
    • Proper positioning keeps the cane ready for use and keeps it from interfering with other passengers.

Orientation En Route

It is important for the traveler to always maintain her orientation to guard against missing her desired stop.

  1. The traveler can count the number of stops, and/or use such sensory information as turns, gradients, movements from below to above ground, doors opening and closing, and passengers boarding and exiting to help maintain her orientation.
    • Stops at locations other than stations (e.g., to avoid collisions at points along the route where tracks cross each other or when there is another train on the track ahead) can generally be distinguished from regular stops because the doors will not open.
    • Some subway systems announce the stops over a loudspeaker system.
    • Most subways have a predetermined number of stops but additional stops are sometimes made to pick up maintenance workers or change operators.
  2. For added security, the traveler can ask a nearby passenger to tell her when the train is approaching her stop. This is especially helpful if she is unfamiliar with the route, loses track of the train's location on the route, or for travelers who have difficulty maintaining their orientation on the subway.
  3. If necessary, the traveler can contact the train operator using the intercom at the end of the car.

If the traveler should miss her stop, she can use any of the following strategies to get to her destination.

  1. Get off at the next stop and then take the subway train going in the opposite direction to her desired destination.
    • If needed, the traveler can ask nearby pedestrians or the kiosk attendant for information about where she is and how to get back to her desired destination.
  2. Stay on the train until it reaches the end of the line and then disembark when it arrives at her desired stop on the return trip.

Exiting the Train

  1. The traveler listens for the announcement of her stop.
  2. When her stop is announced, the traveler waits for the train to come to a complete stop before standing up.
  3. Using the SHORTENED CANE (TOUCH technique with Constant Contact or with the TOUCH & SLIDE technique), the traveler locates the doorway, the gap, and any level difference between the train floor and the edge of the platform.
  4. The traveler uses her cane to clear the platform immediately outside of the door; she then steps onto the platform, being sure to step over the gap.
  5. The traveler steps away from the train using the SHORTENED CANE technique.
    • If the traveler wishes to use the TOUCH technique in the station, she should take several steps away from the train to make room for other passengers to exit before changing her grasp on the cane.

Exiting the Station

  1. The traveler can locate the station exit by
    • noting the travel direction of passengers exiting from the subway;
    • using other sensory information to locate stairs, escalator, elevator, turnstiles, or the information booth.
      • — Stairs to the street can sometimes be perceived by street sounds coming from the stairwells.
      • — Some stations may have exits that lead directly into stores or shopping areas.
      • — In some stations, the traveler can locate the wall and then follow it to locate the stairs or escalator.
  2. In order to locate the stairs or escalators from the train, the traveler can listen to the direction in which others are walking. If there are no people, she can wait until the train leaves and then walk parallel to the platform edge until she hears the escalators or locates the stairs.

COMMON ERRORS AND CORRECTIONS

Error:
The traveler stands 2 feet from the platform edge while waiting for the door to open.

Correction:
Standing at least 3-4 feet from the platform edge while waiting for the door to open allows room for people to exit the train before the traveler boards. It also prevents the traveler from standing dangerously close to the platform edge as a train either pulls into, or departs from, the station.

Error:
The traveler uses the standard TOUCH technique to enter the subway car.

Correction:
Using the TOUCH & SLIDE or TOUCH (Constant Contact) technique enables the traveler to locate the gap most reliably when entering the subway car.

Error:
The traveler fails to clear the platform before she exits the train.

Correction:
Clearing the platform before exiting the train helps to prevent the traveler from bumping into objects or people near the door.

Error:
The traveler fails to take three to four steps away from the train before stopping to change from the SHORTENED CANE position to the standard TOUCH position.

Correction:
The traveler should take three to four steps away from the train before stopping to reposition her cane. This leaves room for other people to exit the train behind her.

Error:
The traveler fails to "clear" with her cane before stepping into the subway car.

Correction:
Clearing with her cane before stepping into the subway car enables the traveler to identify the floor of the car and to verify that she is stepping into a car and not accidentally stepping into the space between cars.

NOTES FOR TEACHERS

GENERAL INFORMATION

Fares

Obtaining Information From the Transit Company

The traveler can call the transportation company and request scheduling, fare, and route information. As an alternative to calling the transit company, it is often possible to obtain information on routes, fares, and schedules from the transit company's website.

If the traveler chooses to call the transit company, she can ask specific questions as stated in the following list.

Questions that the traveler may want to ask of either a transit company or official, or perhaps more effectively of a person at the subway station itself are listed below.

It is sometimes helpful for the traveler to tell the transit company agent that she has a visual impairment and needs to ask for such detailed information. Most agents are willing to take the time to give additional information when they realize why it is needed.

SUGGESTED TEACHING SEQUENCE AND CONSIDERATIONS

The Following Sequence is Common

At the Subway Barn

Exterior points.

Interior points.

The traveler can use familiarization or self-familiarization techniques to explore the interior of the subway train at the barn. Doing so can inform her about the vehicle's dimensions, and distinctive features as stated in the following list.

At the Subway Station

Unique Features and Familiarization

Public Announcements

EMERGENCY PROCEDURES

Fall Onto the Tracks

Train Evacuation

Taking a Trip

RELATED TECHNIQUES

None

REFERENCES

Eames, E., & Eames, T. (1990). Getting around in a major metropolis: The experiences of guide dog users in mass transit. In M. Uslan, A. Peck, W. Wiener, & A. Stern (Eds.), Access to mass transit for blind and visually impaired travelers (pp. 19-25). New York: American Foundation for the Blind.

LaGrow, S., & Weessies, M. (1994). Orientation & mobility: Techniques for independence. New Zealand: Dunmore Press Limited.

Metropolitan Washington Orientation and Mobility Association. (1990). Information for teaching visually handicapped travelers in metropolitan Washington DC's rapid rail transit system. In M. Uslan, A. Peck, W. Wiener, & A. Stern (Eds.), Access to mass transit for blind and visually impaired travelers (pp. 68-75). New York: American Foundation for the Blind.

Mueller, D., & Stone, E. (1990). A step-by-step program for using orientation and mobility techniques. In M. Uslan, A. Peck, W. Wiener, & A. Stern (Eds), Access to mass transit for blind and visually impaired travelers (pp. 104-111). New York: American Foundation for the Blind.

Wacker, C. (1990). Teaching blind and visually impaired riders about an urban bus system. In M. Uslan, A. Peck, W. Wiener, & A. Stern (Eds.), Access to mass transit for blind and visually impaired travelers (pp. 116-123). New York: American Foundation for the Blind.

Wiener, W. (1990). Training for travel in rapid rail. In M. Uslan, A. Peck, W. Wiener, & A. Stern (Eds.), Access to mass transit for blind and visually impaired travelers (pp. 27-30). New York: American Foundation for the Blind.



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