Press Releases

Press Release #08-042

DOT unveils talking kiosk at Whitehall Ferry

New kiosk to help blind and low-vision passengers navigate the terminal

The New York City Department of Transportation, Department for Small Business Services (SBS) Executive Director Ron Melichar, and Mayor's Office of People with Disabilities (MOPD) Commissioner Matthew Sapolin, today unveiled a "Talking Kiosk" that will use sounds, video and spoken and tactile instructions to help direct blind and low-vision passengers at the Whitehall Ferry Terminal in Lower Manhattan. The Talking Kiosk is the second in a City-owned building, mirroring a similar kiosk installed one year ago at the St George Ferry Terminal. Also attending the unveiling attendance were West Brighton Local Development Corporation (WBLDC) President Frank Pentecost and Executive Director Susan Meeker, Dr. Karen Gourgey, the Director of Baruch College's Computer Center for Visually Impaired People, and Steve Landau of Touch Graphics, the Kiosk's designer.

"We have two new, state-of-the-art ferry terminals, and the Talking Kiosk is an innovative way to help all of our passengers get the information they need to navigate them," said NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "Working with all of our partners, we are pleased to take the access that most passengers take for granted and make it available to everyone."

"With new resources like the Talking Kiosk, people with disabilities who ride the Staten Island Ferry will now be able to better navigate the Whitehall Ferry Terminal," said MOPD Commissioner Sapolin. "The collaboration between the City and the West Brighton LDC is a great example of public-private partnerships improving quality of life for all New Yorkers."

Steve Landau from Touch Graphics Inc. again designed the Kiosk, which resembles an automated teller machine. The Kiosk emits a low, intermittent bird-like 'chirp' to help blind and low-vision passengers locate the kiosk in the terminal. The touch screen provides a tactile, three-dimensional floor plan of the terminal's concourse level, and when users touch the map, a narrator provides the name of the place that they touched. If the user continues to hold their finger in a single spot, they hear information about that location's position in the terminal in relation to the Kiosk. An index allows users to select a destination in the terminal from a list, and then have his or her finger lead to that place on the map through a process of incremental audio coaching. All information provided by the Talking Kiosk is presented in multiple formats, including audio narration, video captions, images and sound effects. By layering information in this way, the Kiosk helps to orient people with a range of disabilities, and is engaging and fun to use for non-disabled users too.

A black rubber "bumper" will be in front of the kiosk and will act to both soften the sharp edge of the kiosk counter and makes it more comfortable for users to lean against. There will also be a textured rubber floor mat directly in front of the kiosk, which will make it easier for cane users to locate the kiosk.

The Talking Kiosk is administered by SBS and funded by MOPD via the Federal Community Development Block Grant Program. The program provided WBLDC $21,000 in funding to WBLDC to create the Kiosk. DOT installed the kiosk and will provide monthly funding for its upkeep.

The Talking Kiosk concept was pioneered by Karen Gourgey and her team of researchers at Baruch College, a component of the City University of New York. Later, Touch Graphics, Inc. was formed to design and build these units for other clients, such as the Boston Museum of Science, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and now, the NYC Department of Transportation and the WBLDC.