By Glenda Such, President Delaware Valley Council of Citizens with Low Vision
On March 10, 2015, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) unveiled new signage as mandated under the ADA. The trial signage is in the SEPTA 13th Street concourse that extends underground west to east from 8th and Market Streets, past Macy’s Dillwarth Plaza and to 18th Street at JFK Boulevard. From North to South it runs from Market Street to Locust Street at its widest point. The concourse is made up of connecting tunnels and large passageways. Beyond ADA compliance, SEPTA hopes that the improved signage will increase the use of the concourse during inclement weather and when riders need to quickly navigate between transit lines. The lines currently running off the concourse include the Regional Rail Stations of Jefferson Station and Suburban Station, the various trolley lines, all subway lines and the PATCO Philadelphia Station.
As part of the unveiling process, SEPTA invited consumers with various disabilities to appraise the new signage. Among the group in attendance were four consumers with low vision and four who were blind. The four attendees who have low vision are members of the Delaware Valley Council of Citizens with Low Vision (DVCCLV), an affiliate of PCB centered in Philadelphia. The participants had varying degrees of visual impairments and provided their observations based on their own level of sight as well as their experience with others whose vision is lower by several degrees.
Upon viewing the new signs, a wide variety of input was provided regarding the height, the material chosen, the size of the letters and the contrast between the letters and the background. Signs containing icon symbols for people that do not read English were also evaluated.
Evaluators found that the height of the signs was too high. Members of DVCCLV suggested that the signs be lowered to as close to eye level as possible without being too low for tall pedestrians. The purpose of lowering the sign is to gain relative distance magnification, meaning the closer the image the larger it appears.
The next issue was the material of the signs. Some of the signs have a matte finish and others are glossy, thus creating reflections from nearby lights. The suggestion was to use only matte finish for both the background as well as the foreground (letters and symbols).
The contrast of the letters and symbols was found to be well thought out and visible to those with low vision. This included white on black, yellow on black and so on.
Throughout the entire review, as the group made comments and suggestions; SEPTA’s staff actively noted all comments. They stated they will make every effort to incorporate them in revisions of the signage in the concourse as well as future signs in various SEPTA facilities. SEPTA stated they would schedule a follow up visit for review of implemented suggestions in the near future.