In 2018, plans to implement new ‘shared-space’ roads in Britain were placed on hold due to the danger they posed to pedestrians living with blindness or impaired vision.
‘Shared-space’ roads were intended to encourage safer driving and stop motorists having ‘dominance’ over the streets by removing curbs, traffic signs, and pedestrian crossings. Yet safety concerns have prevented more councils from implementing their own ‘shared-space’ roads.
The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) indicated the dependence on eye contact between pedestrians and drivers made the scheme impractical for people living with sight loss. The removal of crossing points and curbs (with tactile paving) was another contributing factor.
Further research and planning are required before more ‘shared-space’ zones are established.
The Dangers of Taking Accessibility for Granted
This situation highlights just how often society takes accessibility for granted. We all have the right to walk the streets of our towns and cities safely, yet flawed designs and oversights render this difficult (if not impossible) for some people.
Another vital consideration is the location of key elements on a street, such as bus stops, crossing points or signs. People affected by blindness or impaired vision tend to memorize the layout of familiar areas to aid navigation, so changing the location of fixtures may make even the simplest task far more difficult — and dangerous.
For example, a pedestrian unable to find the crossing point they rely on every day may feel forced to find another way to the other side of a street, potentially placing themselves at risk. They could fall and become injured when trying to catch a bus or reach a braille sign which has been placed in a completely different location.
It’s imperative that planners keep such concerns in mind when implementing changes to urban environments. Proper research can minimize the likelihood of problems and encourage a more accessible world for everyone affected by sight-related issues.
Keeping Public Spaces Safe for People Living with Impaired Vision
Indoor public spaces must take a similar approach to accessibility too. While pedestrians can rely on GPS-equipped tools to aid their travels on the street, indoor orientation solutions like RightHear utilize cutting-edge sensor technology to maximize safety and convenience in buildings of all sizes.
Simply installing sensors compatible with the RightHear app allows businesses and organizations to empower visitors living with blindness or impaired vision, granting them the independence to explore without relying on anyone else for assistance. They can follow clear, comprehensive audio directions delivered by the app to find their way through indoor spaces.
For example, users will be told what lies ahead of them, where specific areas are and more. It’s an innovative solution that’s simple and user-friendly for anyone affected by visual impairments or blindness, taking advantage of the devices we all carry.
Common sense, understanding, and the latest technology will continue to make our streets safe for everyone, regardless of their visual capabilities. The aforementioned case in Britain, and others of a similar nature show just how important greater consideration for accessibility issues really are.
What else do you think can be done to keep the streets safe for people living with impaired vision?