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Can shared surfaces be safely negotiated by blind and partially sighted people?

Childs, CR; Thomas, C; Sharp, S; Tyler, NA; (2010) Can shared surfaces be safely negotiated by blind and partially sighted people? Presented at: The 12th International Conference on Mobility and Transport for Elderly and Disabled Persons (TRANSED), Hong Kong, China. Green open access


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‘Shared Space’ schemes are designed to remove the physical distinction between pedestrian space and traffic space in the street environment to encourage more pedestrians to use the area. They may also make it easier for people with wheelchairs, prams or similar to negotiate the space. However, by removing the kerbs, blind and partially sighted people lose one of the key references that they normally use to know they are in a safe space away from vehicles and to navigate around the area. This study is intended to understand what people with visual impairments need from a surface to make it clearly detectable, given that it should not be a barrier to progress for people with other mobility limitations. With this information, some surfaces were tested to determine their suitability as a delineator. Approach and/or Methodology An experimental approach was adopted. People with mobility impairments and blind and partially sighted people were recruited. All participants used the normal street environment unaccompanied. The blind and partially sighted participants included people who use a guide dog, those who use a long cane and those who use no assistive device. The people with mobility impairments all used some form of mobility aid for example walking stick or wheelchair. The tests were run in the pedestrian testing facility PAMELA at UCL. The top surface of the test facility was predominantly concrete paving slab, but with test surfaces discretely located. The task for all participants was to travel from one designated place in the test area to another. For some of these trials the participant would encounter one of the test surfaces, but on other trials they would not. After each trial the participants were asked to rate how easy it was to detect a change in surface, or how easy it was to pass over the surface. The different surfaces included blister paving, corduroy paving, a central delineator, slopes, roughened surfaces, and traditional kerb upstands of different heights. Results or Expected Results None of the 400mm wide surfaces was detected by all participants. Changes in level through slopes were considered both positively and negatively, some people asking for steeper gradients and some less steep. Kerb heights below 60mm were not reliably detectable by blind or partially sighted people and are an obstacle to people in wheelchairs. Further tests on more surfaces are in process and the results will be incorporated into this paper. Conclusion Early suggestions for detectable surfaces – proposed in UK schemes - have been either a barrier to people with mobility impairments, or difficult to detect for blind and partially sighted people or both. The work presented in this paper shows the difficulty in finding a suitable dual purpose surface, yet clarifies the design requirements for shared space delineators for people with mobility impairments and blind or partially sighted people. This work has reinforced the point that 400mm width is insufficient to be used as a tactile surface. Further conclusions will be made after the additional surface tests. Topic Code: Ca C. Accessibility concerns and solutions for those with cognitive and sensory impairment a. Pedestrian safety at crossings and intersections

Type: Conference item (Presentation)
Title: Can shared surfaces be safely negotiated by blind and partially sighted people?
Event: The 12th International Conference on Mobility and Transport for Elderly and Disabled Persons (TRANSED)
Location: Hong Kong, China
Dates: 02 June 2010 - 04 June 2010
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: http://www.transed2010.hk/front/home.php?font=14
Keywords: Accessibility, Shared Space, Pedestrians
UCL classification: UCL > School of BEAMS
UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/97526
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