Penn Station Offers a Talking Kiosk for Travelers Who Have Visual Impairments
Dr. Gourgy using the "Talking Kiosk". Accompanying her is her trusty guide dog, BJ.
Baruch College Computer Center for Visually Impaired People launched the country's first permanent way-finding kiosk in New York City's Penn Station July 1999. This Talking Kiosk, was funded by Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) and is now permanently located in the LIRR terminal, adjacent to the waiting room, on the seventh avenue or east side of the station, lower level.
The Talking Kiosk runs on an internal computer, and combines a tactile/talking map with a standard telephone style keypad. Travelers use one or both to access expertly crafted way-finding information to enhance their freedom and independence in this complicated public space. Information is delivered simultaneously in clear, human speech and high contrast large print video display.
Dr. Gourgy using the keypad on the "Talking Kiosk".
The Kiosk has an attract mode to alert potential users of its existence and location. A bird song can be heard from 150 feet away, even during peak traffic hours. If the user follows this song and comes within 10 feet of the Kiosk, the voice of the kiosk greets him and invites him to use the system. At two feet, the Kiosk's voice welcomes him and begins his session by letting him know what is in front of him, and exactly how to use it. If a user is already familiar with the system, the individual can hit the star key on the keypad, and go immediately to the Kiosk's main menu.
Transit users without visual impairments are welcome to utilize the Talking Kiosk. To date, many have. They find it clear, friendly and simple to use. We hope and anticipate that this kind of user-oriented information resource will become a model for transit facilities and other large, multi-use public spaces throughout the country.
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