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'It's really empowering': How new CTA bus stop poles will make a difference for the blind and the visually impaired

CTA to include new stop pole for the blind, visually impaired
CTA to include new stop pole for the blind, visually impaired 02:32

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Almost half a million bus rides are taken in Chicago every day. 

On your next commute consider how easy it is to locate your bus stop. Morning Insider Lauren Victory explains the significance of a simple sign that could pop up at your stop soon.

In our fast-paced city, Greg Polman and Colleen Wunderlich use guide dogs to navigate the hustle and bustle to get to their jobs at the Chicago Lighthouse.

"I take the bus to and from work," said Wunderlich, Vice President of Partnerships and head of the Forsythe Entrepreneurial Center which helps the visually impaired start businesses.

Her commute is one that people with sight might take for granted. Consider the different poles that could be at a stop: bus pole, parking pole, light pole.

"The bus pulls up and I'm not in the proper place then the bus drives away and I miss my opportunity to get where I'm going," said Wunderlich, recalling a situation she said has occurred more than once.

New bus stop labels in Braille could be the solution. The tiny signs may seem simple but Polman said the Chicago Transit Authority tapped him and others from the visually impaired community for help and a lot of thought went into the design.

"Textures, contrast quality of braille, quality of the embossed lettering on the signs," said Polman, Chicago Lighthouse's Vice President of Policy.

He shared that another carefully chosen detail was the sign's color. It is blue with white lettering. Polman says that color scheme seemed to be a winner for people on the advisory committee who had some vision loss. He is considered totally blind.

We asked CTA why the tactile signs are being installed now – in 2022.

"The A.D.A is pretty recent still," said Irma Gomez, CTA's A.D.A. Compliance Manager. A.D.A. stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act. The law passed in 1990.

"A lot of organizations are barely catching up," Gomez said, adding that CTA's been putting in the work. That includes a multi-year, multi-part A.D.A. upgrade to its train system and listening to bus riders who requested the tactile signs. 

"The fact that CTA has made a commitment to becoming more accessible, I think it's really empowering," said Gomez.

CTA tells CBS2 it researched accessibility signage used by various other transit agencies including Atlanta (MARTA), Los Angeles (LA Metro), Austin (Capital Metro), Charlotte (CATS), Vancouver (Translink).

The cost to manufacture and install the new tactile signs is $380,350 which was partially paid for with a grant.

Only about 1,300 tactile signs will be installed as part of a pilot program even though Chicago is home to more than 10,000 bus stops.

We're told that's in case commuters suggest any changes like a height adjustment. Gomez explained it's easier to tweak a smaller number of signs. 

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