I go to college right outside of Washington, DC, and often find myself using the Metro subway system to travel around the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area. Recently, the Metro system received several upgrades that have really helped me as a rider with a disability, although like most accessibility related things, the upgrades can benefit all riders. Here are five things about the new Metro system's 7000 series trains that surprised me, in a good way, as someone with a vision impairment.
Clear, easy to understand voices
When the train arrives at the station, a clear and easy to understand voice announces the current stop, what side the doors will open on, and the next stop. No more asking the person next to me what the announcement was, or misinterpreting and getting off at the wrong stop. I especially appreciate being able to find where the doors will be opening so I can exit quickly and easily.
On the left and right sides of the car, above the seats, there is a sign with large LED lights that displays the amount of stops left until the train arrives at the desired destination, displaying the stops for the entirety of the line. Before, I would track the amount of stops left on my phone, but I appreciate having an easy to follow display so close to me, especially with questionable cell service at times.
Large, readable display
In addition to the stop tracker, there is a large color screen, similar to a TV, that displays the current stop, next stop, and other route information in large, bold, and easy to read text. There's also information about other routes and resources on where and when to transfer trains. On the side, there are video ads about the Metro system and their Back2Good campaign, but thankfully these ads do not include strobe or flashing lights.
Easier to navigate
Instead of having carpet, the new Metro cars have smooth, rubber floors that my cane is able to glide across flawlessly. There's also traction so I don't go crashing into people and doors when the train stops. One small tweak I think riders might benefit from is some sort of label that lets them know if they will be riding backwards based on their seating choice. A couple of my friends have been surprised when the train starts moving and they are suddenly traveling backwards.
More people with blindness canes
With all of these new accessibility features available, I have been meeting more and more people with blindness canes in my travels. Almost everyone agrees with me that these new accessibility features are great, and while there is still progress to be made, our experiences with Metro have gone from being hit or miss to overall pleasant ones.
The Back2Good program for improving the Metro system has been an incredible success. I am very fortunate to have access to a public transportation system that is accessible to people with low vision and blindness. In the future, I hope that Metro will continue to improve their accessibility for other disabilities. After all, the ideal future is one that is accessible to people with disabilities, and it all starts with ensuring that anyone can access public transportation.
To learn more about the Back2Good program, visit their website here.
And for more about how people with low vision use the bus system, read my bus post here.