Downtown

Is that subway art? No, it’s the MTA’s new accessibility experiment.

And they want your input.

January 9, 2020 Mary Frost
This platform at the Jay St/MetroTech subway station in Downtown Brooklyn has colorful way-finding stripes, bumpy tactile guideways and boarding area floor markers as part of a test of aids for disabled riders. Photo: Meaghan McGoldrick/Brooklyn Eagle

The MTA is testing more than a dozen new ways to help disabled commuters at Brooklyn’s busy Jay St/MetroTech subway station, and the agency hopes riders will give them input on what works and what doesn’t.

The station is decked out with colorful “way-finding stripes” on station floors and stairs, bumpy “tactile guideways,” boarding area floor markers, Braille signage and other accessibility assists. Way-finding stripes use colored, labeled stripes on the floor to lead commuters to the right subway platforms.

MTA turned the Jay Street hub into an “accessible station lab” in October and has been collecting feedback since then from hundreds who have passed through. The “lab” will remain up until Jan. 17, at which time it will be disassembled.

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The agency is also testing out cell phone apps. Phones loaded with the NaviLens app, for example, can read the QR-style colored signs hanging on walls throughout the station. When the signs are scanned with a smartphone, NaviLens reads them out loud.

The blue tactile guideway leads those with low vision to their subway platform. Photo: Meaghan McGoldrick/Brooklyn Eagle
The blue tactile guideway leads those with low vision to their subway platform. Photo: Meaghan McGoldrick/Brooklyn Eagle

The experiment was originally intended to wrap up Dec. 31, but has been extended through the end of January to give riders more time to test the new features. Surveys will be accepted through Jan. 17.

Some feedback has already come in from disability advocates who have toured the station.

Sharada Veerubhotla, a teacher, LaVelle School for the Blind, took her students there to try it out in December.

“It was exciting to see so many students attempting to use the subway for the first time, or the first time in years,” she told MTA. “One of the young men, 19, who is blind and has Tourette’s, last visited the subway in 2010. He was able to use one of the way-finding apps to travel from the mezzanine to the R platform.”

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Cell phones loaded with the NaviLens app can read the QR-style colored signs hanging on walls throughout the subway station. Photo: MTA
Cell phones loaded with the NaviLens app can read the QR-style colored signs hanging on walls throughout the subway station. Photo: MTA

Gian Carlo Pedulla, a supervisor at Educational Vision Services, said he was happy that the MTA had utilized a mix of high-tech and low-tech options.

“The more advanced apps that are being tested as well as the increased braille signage are exciting features because they provide me, a blind traveler, with instant access to visual information about my environment,” he wrote.

The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities partnered with MTA for the experiment. The lab represents “what an accessible subway system could look like in the future,” MTA said in a statement.

Community engagement is crucial, MTA said. “We welcome the honest feedback and look forward to receiving results that will help us determine what features to incorporate into future accessibility projects,” Alex Elegudin, NYC Transit senior advisor for Systemwide Accessibility, said.

Comments can be sent in through Jan. 17; up until that time, community and advocacy groups can request a tour of the lab by emailing [email protected]


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