Pedestrian crossing buttons (2), metal/plastic, Aldridge Traffic Systems, Australia, 1976-1987
The ATPD, 'Audio -Tactile Pedestrian Detector', is an example of an Australian innovation. The device was developed in response to social pressure from 1967 through to the 1980s. The initial request came from a member of the public for the Department of Main Roads (DMR) to solve a social problem by developing a safe indicating system for vision and hearing impaired pedestrians to cross the road safely at traffic lights. The resulting public lobbying and research influenced the development of government policies to aid the disabled. The device has been exported and has enabled pedestrians with vision and hearing impairments, as well as the general public, to use pedestrian crossings with safety.
The pedestrian crossing button is a well-known example of the work of Nielsen Design Associates, one of Sydney's oldest industrial design consultancies first established in 1961. The group designs products for a diverse range of industries, well-known work includes the Betachek blood glucose meter, Telstra rental phone and Cafe-Bar.
Louis A. Challis and Associates Pty Ltd : audio-tactile R&D for RTA (1975-76)
Aldridge Traffic Systems : manufacture
Roads and Traffic Authority of NSW (RTA) : coordination
Nielsen Design Associates : industrial design (early 1980s)
AWA Limited : manufacture
Frank Hulscher : RTA traffic engineer
David Wood : designer at Nielsen Design
Louis Challis : engineer
In 1967 a blind man named Cecil McIlwraith asked the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) to introduce pedestrian traffic signals he could hear. At a city crossing, the RTA installed some bells and buzzers on both sides.
Blind pedestrians were meant to cross when the buzzing sound replaced the ringing. Unfortunately they found that when the bells broke down they sounded like buzzers, which could cause deadly confusion in blind pedestrians.
The next version, installed in 1976, had a two-rhythm buzzer and included a vibrating panel to touch, because many vision-impaired people also have some loss of hearing.
In the early 1980s Sydney consultants Nielsen Design Associates were asked to redesign the device. The new unit was made from cast aluminium with vandal-proof fixings. The large magnetic button (tested to withstand millions of pushes) is easy to find and push. A Braille arrow on the vibrating plate indicates the direction to cross.
The RTA still owns the design and technology of this revolutionary button. Since 1985 it has contracted three companies to make the 'Audio-Tactile Pedestrian Detector' in Australia and sell them throughout Australia, the USA and Singapore.
The ATPD pedestrian button leads the international standards for acoustic and tactile signals for traffic lights. The audio-tactile pedestrian detector has given pedestrians with vision, hearing and physical impairments greater confidence and freedom to move about independently