How Do People with Visual Impairments Cross Roads at Signalized Intersections?

Audible Crossing Signal Button

People living without impaired vision or blindness take so much for granted. We forget how easier everyday life is for us than for those affected by sight loss of any kind. 

Crossing a road safely and navigating a signalized intersection is just one example of a simple task that becomes much harder when you’re unable to see. Pedestrians affected by blindness or impaired vision must take great care and take advantage of various aids to avoid danger on roads. 

Let’s explore how people with sight-related problems cross at signalized intersections and how cutting-edge technology is helping to improve their daily experiences.

Reading the Signals and Staying Safe

With more than 1 billion people living with impaired vision worldwide, intersections must be designed to help everyone cross safely. Good design, effective systems, and thorough research into common problems are fundamental. 

The first step pedestrians must take is identifying the intersection and the proper point to cross. A street with tactile paving / detectable warning surface (bumps in the concrete) leading to the road is a common cue, identifiable through contact with the feet, a cane or a wheelchair. Crossing points may include audio signals too. 

A combination of both is most effective, yet an intersection without these makes simply crossing much more difficult and, sadly, dangerous. Implementing effective safeguards requires a little more investment and planning, but full accessibility is key in a caring, inclusive society.

Ideally, pedestrians can pinpoint their location and know exactly where crossing the intersection in each direction will take them too. Accessible signage — incorporating large text, braille and/or high-contrast colors — should be available whenever possible.

Well-designed signs make understanding the surrounding environment and following directions much easier for those with partial or full blindness. 

Otherwise, people living with blindness or impaired vision need to retain a map in their minds or rely on others for directions.

American Audible Crossing Signal Button

Modern solutions

Fortunately, smartphone technology offers multiple solutions to this problem. 

GPS is commonplace in today’s devices. When complemented by audio directions, this informs users of their location, the right route by which to reach their destination, distance from one point to another and more. 

Yet pedestrians passing through internal spaces during journeys will lose their connection and be unable to rely on GPS for indoor orientation.

An indoor orientation tool like RightHear helps people affected by sight loss find their way in any interior equipped with compatible sensors. These communicate with the app to provide the user with a comprehensive breakdown of their location, surrounding rooms/areas, any obstacles in their path and more. 

This restores independence and empowers users to explore public environments on their own, without relying on others for help. 

Local governments and organizations can enhance pedestrian safety at signalized intersections by installing compatible sensors, enabling anyone with sight-related problems to find their way in countless environments with the utmost safety. 

Raising awareness and embracing innovative solutions will continue to drive positive change for people affected by blindness or impaired vision. 


What do you think can be done to help pedestrians cross at signalized intersections safely? Share your thoughts and ideas below.