Press Releases

Press Release #07-97

Contact: Seth Solomonow (212) 442-7033

DOT Unveils Talking Kiosk to Aid Disabled Ferry Passengers

New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Small Business Services Commissioner Rob Walsh, Mayor's Office of People with Disabilities Commissioner Matthew Sapolin, Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro, and Councilwoman Gale Brewer today unveiled a “Talking Kiosk” that will help direct disabled passengers in the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island. The Talking Kiosk is the first in a City-owned building.

“We are committed to providing top-notch service to all the passengers who use the Staten Island Ferry,” said Commissioner Sadik-Khan. “Thanks to the support of the Department for Small Business Services, the West Brighton LDC and the Staten Island Center for Independent Living, the Talking Kiosk will allow passengers with a disability to navigate the terminal on their own.”

“New York City's 200,000 small businesses form the backbone of our economy, and we are committed to ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to the diverse commercial corridors across the City,” said Commissioner Walsh. “Through our ShopABLE NYC program, we are helping New Yorkers with disabilities access Staten Island's unique merchants and attractions.”

“We are glad to see the West Brighton LDC is partnering with the City to use ShopABLE resources to increase access to critical transportation services for people with disabilities on Staten Island,” said Commissioner Sapolin. “The new Talking Kiosk exemplifies the innovative solutions that are creating opportunities for people with disabilities to explore everything New York City has to offer.”

Steve Landau from Touch Graphics Inc. designed and customized the Kiosk for the terminal. It resembles an automated teller machine and a low, intermittent bird-like chirp helps blind and low-vision passengers locate the kiosk in the terminal. The touch screen provides a 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 led 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 riders too.

ShopABLE NYC Program -- whose objective it is to make the city more accessible for people with disabilities -- is administered by the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) and funded by the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD). The program provided $20,000 in funding to the West Brighton Local Development Corp. (WBLDC) to create the Kiosk. Plans are also in the works to expand the program with another Kiosk at the Whitehall Ferry Terminal.

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.