Sound Transit first in country to receive federal grant for “sign” system to aid sight-impaired commuters

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Sound Transit has received a $1.98M grant from the Federal Transit Administration to install the Talking Signs® infrared way-finding system throughout its regional network. It is the first such grant in the country.

“This is an important and exciting project for Sound Transit and our customers who will benefit from the Talking Signs® technology,” said Marty Minkoff, Sound Transit’s Director of Transportation Services. “Sound Transit is committed to exploring – and utilizing – every possible means to make our system accessible to everyone in Central Puget Sound.”

Talking Signs® technology is an infrared wireless communications system that provides remote directional human voice messages that make confident, independent travel possible for  people with vision, cognitive or reading disabilities . The technology was pioneered and developed at Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center in San Francisco, California.

The system consists of short audio signals sent by invisible infrared light beams from permanently installed transmitters to a hand-held receiver that decodes the signal and delivers the voice message through its speaker or headset. The signals are directional, and the beam width and distance can be adjusted. The system works effectively in both interior and exterior applications.

Talking Signs® may be used wherever landmark identification and way-finding assistance are needed. To use a Talking Signs® system, the user scans the environment with the hand-held receiver. As individual signals are encountered, the user hears the messages. For example, upon entering a lobby, one might detect "information desk" when pointing the receiver directly ahead, "public telephones" when pointing to the right and "stairs to the second floor" when pointing to the left.

The Talking Signs® project is part of Sound Transit’s Mobility Initiative Program. It is the only technology recommended by the Federal Access Board.

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Sound Transit plans, builds, and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound.