Insufficient standards for usable and safe environments for sight impaired

Insufficient standards for usable and safe environments for sight impaired causing potentially dangerous situations. 

When revising national standards and guidelines facilitating for sight-impaired people in transport systems, Norwegian authorities needed an assessment of current standards and practices. Two issues concerning design of streetscapes and public transport stops were of particular concern for the authorities:

1) tactile paving seems to be laid out in situations in which more thoughtful design with natural leading elements could better have ensured usability, accessibility and safety for sight impaired; and,

2) there is a lack of consistency where tactile paving is laid out, causing potentially dangerous situations.

In our study, we found that practitioners often face complex situations, where several considerations need to be taken into account. When turning to standards, guidelines and handbooks they only find vague descriptions of how to solve the situation with natural leading elements. This leads to practitioners using standardised, tactile paving instead of natural leading elements.

Further, the recommendations and examples regarding standardised, tactile paving show simple and ideal situations, and the practitioners often need to solve the situation on their own. This leads to practitioners designing a solution they believe will work for visually impaired, while at the same time leading to an inconsistent system of tactile paving throughout the transport system.

One of the main recommendations are for standards, guidelines and handbooks to present more comprehensive and specific descriptions on how to use natural guidance, and how to use standardised, tactile paving in complex situations.

Aud Tennøy, Kjersti Visnes Øksenholt, Nils Fearnley, Bryan Matthews. Standards for usable and safe environments for sight impaired. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers – Municipal Engineer 168(1): 24–31 doi: 10.1680/muen.13.00043



Gaustadalléen 21
0349 Oslo, Norway

Phone: +47 22 57 38 00