La Crosse MTU to improve accessibility with new app feature

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds recognized Friday as “White Cane Safety Day,” acknowledging the 200,000 Wisconsin residents living with visual impairments.

Reynolds and La Crosse MTU Transit Director Adam Lorentz also took the opportunity to share the city’s plans for the future.

“It’s nice to talk about accessibility, but we have to follow through,” Reynolds said.

The city is taking new steps on its route toward accessibility — a journey that starts at Grand River Station.

“We installed our new head reader signs, and what those do is they announce the stops where they’re located,” Lorentz said. “So every time point will get announced—so somebody doesn’t have to see where they’re at, they’ll be able to hear where they’re at.”

Lorentz hopes to use that technology to update the MTU’s app in a way that will help the visually impaired better navigate the city.

“The app is actually going to speak to you—and you’re going to be able to hear where the bus is, or where the next time point is, or — trip planner — how to get to a location,” Lorentz said.

There’s still some time before MTU reaches that destination — the trials won’t begin until February, and the official update won’t be out until spring.

“It’s easy for me to say something works, but we really have to make sure that the riders who we’re getting this for can actually use it, and it’s a viable option for them,” Lorentz said.

Rhonda Staats, who is visually impaired, is grateful for the city’s strides.

“Those of us with vision loss are reliant on safe, walkable communities,” Staats said. “Along with reliable, accessible and affordable public transportation.”

Lorentz has  gathered a few volunteers for his project.

Mayor Reynolds says the city’s work doesn’t stop at an app update, adding, “Our new ADA engineer will be doing an audit to be sure we’re following through on some of the actions we’re talking about.”

In addition to these efforts, Reynolds said the city also is focused on educating drivers and pedestrians.

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