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Ferries - ADA Visual Paging Program

Visual paging system at Seattle ferry terminal
WSF hosted a field trip for deaf and hard-of-hearing students at the Seattle terminal during the pilot project. See photos.

Summer 2014

  • System build-out is ongoing.


WSDOT is implementing a visual paging system that displays important travel-related information on video screens on Washington state ferries.

Why is WSDOT implementing a visual paging system on Washington state ferries?
WSDOT is committed to providing equal access to its facilities, programs and services for persons with disabilities. In 2011 WSF conducted a six-month Visual Paging Pilot Project on the Seattle/Bainbridge Island ferry route so that passengers who are deaf or hard of hearing receive information via text on video screens at the same time that all other travelers receive information via audio messages. The pilot project was successful, and we are building out the visual paging system throughout the ferry system.

Serving our customers
WSF makes a considerable number of service announcements over public-address systems on its vessels and terminals. While some announcements are routine, others can be quite specific and important to our passengers, dealing with matters like lost objects, cars with lights or alarms on, vessel delays, changes in loading or unloading procedures, or emergencies. The visual paging system will ensure that both routine and special announcements are accessible to riders with a hearing impairment.

Program Benefits

  • With studies indicating that almost eight percent of the adult population have hearing difficulties serious enough to interfere with their ability to understand speech, this system could benefit more than 1.8 million deaf and hard-of-hearing riders per year.
  • Improve customer communication and contribute to the safety of all travelers by providing the deaf and hard of hearing with the same public address announcements and emergency messages as other travelers.
  • Contribute toward financial sustainability and community involvement benefits due to its advertising, marketing, and outreach potential. By creating new opportunities to increase the share of operating costs WSF covers through revenue from advertising on its video screens, the program could improve WSF’s financial sustainability and keep services affordable. It will also allow WSF to expand its practice of allowing communities to market themselves for minimal cost, which has shown great value in supporting local economies and communities.
  • Ensure WSF compliance with ADA regulations requiring transportation agencies to provide announcements in an accessible format for those with a hearing impairment.

What is the program timeline?

  • 2008 – Formed program team.
  • Spring 2009 - Issued Request for Information from equipment vendors. 
  • Fall 2009 – Issued Request for Proposals for pilot project. 
  • Fall 2010 – Signed contract with Four Winds Interactive for pilot. 
  • April-October 2011 – Six-month pilot.
  • Summer 2011 – Evaluated pilot and concluded to build out system throughout WSF.
  • October 2011 – WSF system-wide assessment concluded that a wireless system is feasible and recommended build-out approach. 
  • Winter/spring 2012 –Design and testing. 
  • Spring 2012 - Legislature provided $500,000 for the program.
  • Summer 2012 - Order equipment for four vessels: Spokane, Walla Walla, Puyallup and Kaleetan. (System has already been installed on Wenatchee and Tacoma.) 
  • Fall 2012-early 2013 – Install system on four vessels: Spokane, Walla Walla, Puyallup and Kaleetan.
  • Continue build-out as funding allows.

Financial information
The Legislature provided $500,000 for this program in the 2011-13 supplemental transportation budget. WSF is pursuing federal grant money to continue to fund the build-out of this important program.

How can I get more information?
Marta Coursey
WSF Director of Communications/Visual Paging Program Manager