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Not Yet Built

Acoustical Accessibility in New York City Subway Stations for Hearing and Visual Impaired

The purpose of the research project is called “Acoustical Design Recommendations for New York City Railway Stations: Improving Accessibility for Hearing and Visually Impaired Patrons”. This project is an universal design research and suggestion for the 129th Meeting and Journal of The Acoustical Society of America, which was published in May 1995.

Auditory communication in the railway system stations is difficult for patrons with normal hearing and almost impossible for those with hearing limitations. Noise from people and trains reverberates around the stations, making it extremely difficult to determine the direction from which the sound is emanating – a primary means of orientation for people with visual impairments.

Our study of the railway system found that the reverberant noise levels in a typical railway station are very high – so high, in fact, that it is difficult for those with no hearing loss to clearly decipher public announcements made over the audio system. These levels are due in large part to the prevalence of non-absorptive construction and finishes such as concrete, steel, and ceramic tile.

We found that high levels of reverberation in the stations could be cost-effectively reduced with the installation of various sound absorptive materials in strategic wall and ceiling locations. If implemented, everyone who relies on the railway system for transportation will benefit from clearer audio communications. For people with hearing and visual impairments, however, reduced reverberation in railway stations means access, self-sufficiency and better quality of life.