Better street design can transform life for people with low vision
6 October 2010
Dominy Bird, 020 7070 6772, email@example.com
A pioneering study launched today (6 October) shows how better street design can help blind and partially sighted people to become more confident and more mobile, and reduce their isolation.
Sight Line: designing better streets for people with low vision was produced by a research associate at the Helen Hamlyn Centre at the Royal College of Art, and funded by CABE.
One third of people find the most difficult thing about losing their sight is the way it affects getting out and about, and nearly half only have contact with someone outside their home less than once a week. This year-long study has found that design plays a big role in giving people with low vision the confidence to use streets and public spaces.
Sight Line found some features which should help people with low vision are hindering them instead. Local authorities use blister paving differently, even in adjacent boroughs, to demarcate the pavement edge at both controlled and uncontrolled crossings. The study argues for national guidance to be clearer and for local authorities to coordinate across boundaries to provide more consistent information.
The study bases its recommendations on an investigation into how eight blind and partially sighted people navigate their local streets, as well as interviews with local authority designers and researchers from across the country.
It has developed a practical new mapping technique to communicate how three different groups (residual sight users, long cane users and guide dog users) use a combination of sound, touch, and memory to get around independently and safely.
The report includes design briefs for products that would make streets easier to navigate. These include road work barriers, new road surfaces to augment traffic sounds and tactile signs to attach to street furniture.
Sarah Gaventa, Director of Public Space at CABE, said:
‘There are a third of a million blind or partially sighted people registered in the UK. Of these, 180,000 rarely leave their homes, as they feel vulnerable using our streets. Sight Line begins to bridge the gap between users and designers. We hope it will support designers to create great streets for everyone.’
Sandi Wassmer, who took part in the study, is registered blind with some residual vision. She said: ‘Giving consideration to the needs and views voiced by visually impaired people about how they get around in their local area is essential, so that design teams can create the most accessible solutions. The Sight Line study leads by example in its user-centric approach and in recognising that the users are the experts, after all.’
Ross Atkin, the CABE Space research associate at the Helen Hamlyn Centre is exhibiting his findings at the RCA as part of the London Design Festival.
Notes to editors
- To download the report visit www.cabe.org.uk/files/sight-line.pdf
- CABE and the Helen Hamlyn Centre funded industrial design engineering graduate Ross Atkin to investigate the experiences of blind and partially sighted people navigating urban streets and public spaces, and to understand current debates and professional practice, in order to identify ways to deliver better streets for people with low vision.
- Unseen: Neglect, isolation and household poverty amongst older people with sight loss explored the effect of sight loss on quality of life. (RNIB and British Gas, 2004)
- The Royal College of Art has a proud history of collaboration with business, industry and the public sector. The Helen Hamlyn Centre provides a focus for people-centred design and innovation within the RCA. Since it started in 1999, the Helen Hamlyn Research Associates Programme has built and impressive track record of commercial and voluntary sector partnership, working with 75 organisations worldwide. www.hhc.rca.ac.uk
- CABE is the government’s advisor on architecture, urban design and public space. As a public body, we encourage policymakers to create places that work for people. We help local planners apply national design policy and offer expert advice to developers and architects. We show public sector clients how to commission buildings that meet the needs of their users. And we seek to inspire the public to demand more from their buildings and spaces. Advising, influencing and inspiring, we work to create well-designed, welcoming places. www.cabe.org.uk