Accessible Pedestrian Signals

Accessible pedestrian signalAccessible Pedestrian Signals, formerly known as audible pedestrian signals, advise pedestrians who are blind, visually impaired, or deaf-blind when they have the right-of-way to cross a roadway. The new term Accessible Pedestrian Signal (APS) is used to consider the accessibility requirements of persons with disabilities other than blindness or visual impairment and reflects the concept of universal access.

With the passing of Bill 118: Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, the Region of Durham is committed to the principles set out in the Act to suitably meet the needs of pedestrians with visual impairments or other disabilities. The Region of Durham works with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), as a resource, in order to effectively address these needs and to establish a standard for the installation of APS to promote uniformity.

Over the past 30 years, with the introduction of more complex intersection designs and signalization, traditional street-crossing techniques used by persons with visual and/or hearing impairments have become less effective–recognizing when it is safe and appropriate to cross a busy intersection has become an even greater challenge.

Simply put, an APS is a device that relays information about the most appropriate time to cross the street (or pedestrian phase intervals) using non-visual methods such: as audible tone, verbal speech messages, vibrating surfaces, tactile messages, receiver or any combination of these methods. APS may be used at signalized locations where pedestrian signals are also used. APS devices should be used as a supplemental device to existing orientation and mobility techniques to assist visually and/or hearing impaired individuals with street crossings. APS provide improved security for pedestrians with visual and/or hearing impairments by allowing them greater mobility.

How They Work

Accessible Pedestrian Signals are linked to the visual pedestrian signals. The APS advise pedestrians who are blind, visually impaired, and deaf-blind when they have the right-of-way for a particular crossing or direction.

Two audible tones are used to distinctly indicate the direction and pedestrian symbol in which the pedestrian has the right-of-way:

A pedestrian pushbutton must be pushed and continuously held for at least five seconds to properly activate the audible tones for the next available signal cycle. Pedestrians will hear a ‘pop’ sound from the pedestrian button to confirm that the audible sounds will be activated. If the button is not held down for at least five seconds, a ‘pop’ will not be heard and the audible tone will not be activated.

In addition to the “cuckoo” and “Canadian Melody” sounds, the APS pushbuttons are equipped with a continuous tone called a “locator tone”. This tone is emitted from the pushbuttons to assist pedestrians, who are visually impaired, in locating the pushbuttons.

The APS sounds and locator tones automatically adjust to ambient (ie. background) sound levels. Therefore, during peak traffic periods where ambient sound volumes levels are typically higher, the APS sound automatically adjusts in relation to the ambient sound level and is louder. During the overnight or off-peak periods they drop to their lowest volume level.

Pushbuttons in the Region of Durham are also equipped with a raised tactile arrow that points in the direction of the pedestrian crossing. This arrow vibrates when the APS Cuckoo or Canadian Melody sounds are activated.

Locations equipped with APS in the Region of Durham:

Town of Ajax

City of Oshawa

City of Pickering

Municipality of Clarington

Town of Whitby

How can I request an APS Evaluation to be conducted?

The Region has a retrofit program to install accessible pedestrian signals at existing signalized intersections that is based on available capital funding. Locations are prioritized in consultation with the local chapter of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and Regional Accessibility Advisory Committee.

Requests for accessible pedestrian signals may be made to the Regional Accessibility Advisory Committee. Please contact us directly at 905-668-7711 extension 2009 or via email at