Memorandum by the National Federation
of the Blind of the United Kingdom (WTC 41)
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PLANNING OF TOWNS AND
CITIES FOR THE FUTURE
For the past 50 years the Environment has been
designed for the motorist and the able-bodied pedestrian. Very
little thought, if any, has been given to the needs of pedestrians,
elderly and disabled people, especially blind and partially sighted
people, deaf-blind people and blind people with additional disabilities.
Currently, there are one point seven million
blind and partially-sighted people in the United Kingdom. This
number is likely to double in the next 10 years according to the
World Health Organisation, so the needs of blind and partially-sighted
people should be taken into consideration when planning the environment.
This must include housing, shopping facilities, pavements, roads
and public transport.
To ensure that blind and partially sighted people
can be as mobile as possible for as long as possible, living accommodation
should be so designed and built that it is accessible for everyone
and is built within reach of schools, churches, shopping and leisure
facilities, within safe walking distances. So often in the past
housing estates have been built miles away from local facilities,
without bus services to reach them. Out of town supermarkets and
leisure facilities have been built out of town and this has made
these facilities no-go areas for a large proportion of the population,
including blind and partially sighted people, who do not have
access to a car. It has also meant that local small shops have
been closed down. Many blind people, especially those losing their
sight in later life, need an incentive to go out, many want to
continue to collect their weekly pension from their local Post
Office. Unfortunately, over the past 10 years many local Post
Offices have been closed down, this has made it very difficult
and in many cases impossible for blind people to walk to or reach
a Post Office. Where Post Offices have been put within a supermarket
or larger store it has made it extremely difficult for blind people
to find their way around.
Houses and other living accommodation that has
been built in an Open Planning design has made it very difficult
for blind and partially sighted people to find their way around.
These areas do not have walls, fences or gates, it is therefore
impossible for blind people to know where they are up to in a
street or a housing complex where there are no roads.
People who are already blind would not choose
to live in such an area, and this has limited their choice of
living accommodation, but for the person who is already living
in an Open Plan area and then goes blind, they find it very difficult
to find their way around, even with a guide dog it is very confusing
without any fixed location points such as gates and fences.
Many housing estates and blocks of flats are
built without any grassed areas, this again makes it very difficult
for blind people with guide dogs, as there are no toilet relief
areas for the dogs. Many people complain about dogs' mess and
yet no builder or planner considers building such facilities.
Local authorities should consider building such facilities adjacent
to public buildings. Consideration is always given to car owners,
providing garages and car park space, but never to the dog owner.
With the increased numbers of blind people in
the next 10 years there will also be an increased number of guide
dog owners. It is not only necessary to build such facilities
for guide dog owners in their home environment, but for the guide
dog owner who will visit friends and relatives, go on holiday
or visit shopping and leisure facilities. A safe free-running
area should also be provided for guide dogs; with restrictions
in parks in towns and cities it has become very difficult to find
anywhere for a guide dog to have a free run.
All housing, including bungalows, houses and
flats should be designed and built that they are accessible for
everyone. This is "Life Time Housing".
Parents with young children using prams and
buggies need level access and ground floor toilets.
People using shopping trolleys or carrying luggage
for holidays need level access.
People using wheel-chairs, walking frames, crutches
or sticks need level access.
All these categories need storage space for
their buggies, prams, wheel-chairs, trolleys, crutches, walking
frames and luggage.
All elderly people, including blind and partially
sighted people need level access.
Windows should be designed so that they can
be reached and opened by everyone, but secure and safe for children.
Doors are one of the biggest hazard for blind
people. All glass doors are a real danger for partially sighted
people. Automatic opening doors will help many people, including
wheel-chair users and blind people. Sliding doors are also easier
to use, and less hazardous for blind people, as an ordinary opening
door can be left half open and blind people then walk into them,
receiving many bumps and bruises on their forehead.
Internal steps should be avoided, but where
stairs are built, handrails should be provided both sides and
should extend beyond the top and bottom step.
Architects and builders should consult with
people with disabilities before building either domestic or public
All footways, footpaths, pedestrian areas and
promenades should be designed and built for pedestrians use only.
Cyclists should not be allowed on such walking areas and vehicles
should not have the opportunity to drive or park on them. This
means that they must be designed so that vehicles cannot have
the opportunity to access these walking areas. Over the past 30
years bollards have been introduced to prevent vehicles from parking
on pavements. These bollards have cost billions of pounds, have
been very hazardous for blind and partially sighted people, causing
many accidents and injuries, are very unsightly and have achieved
very little. If walking areas were better designed there would
not be a necessity for such obstacles.
Any street furniture should not cause an obstruction
or hazard for a blind person. Moveable obstacles such as A-Boards,
shop displays, tables and chairs should not be allowed. If cafes
and restaurants want to have tables and chairs outside their premises
on the pavement, then they should be within a fenced or walled
enclosed area, but they should not extend onto the footway or
footpath. In the last few years such obstacles in towns and cities
have made it impossible for pedestrians to walk safely and in
some streets have had to walk in the road as there has been no
space left on the pavement.
Pedestrian areas and promenades should have
seats that are covered so people can rest and shelter from the
rain and hot sunshine. They should be positioned so that they
are easy to find. but not an additional obstacle. A tactile information
strip across the pavement would lead the blind person to where
the seat is located.
All of these areas should be well lit at all
times. All streets should be well lit and kept cleaned. Rubbish
bins should be provided. These bins should be at ground level
and either attached to the seating area or a wall, but should
not be free-standing or at head height, where they would become
another obstacle. Bins should not have sharp edges and should
be in a contrasting colour to their background surround.
Lighting columns, traffic signals and other
street furniture should not be positioned in the walking area,
as they create another obstacle for the pedestrian, especially
for blind and partially sighted people. They also restrict the
width of the walking area, which makes it very difficult for people
using wheel-chairs and for people who have to walk together, like
parents holding the hands of young children or people pushing
a double buggy or elderly people who help each other by walking
together side by side, holding an arm. Blind people are often
escorted and a blind person with a guide dog will often have a
shopping trolley or even a young child with them. This is why
the width of the pavement needs to be sufficient to take into
account all these considerations and why fixed street furniture
should be very carefully positioned.
There should be shelters at all bus stops, these
shelters should be positioned at the kerb edge and should be enclosed,
should protect passengers from bad weather, and passing vehicles
that might splash them.
Shelters should be well lit, not made of all
glass and should be in a bright colour, contrasting to the colour
of the pavement.
All shelters should have seats and should have
a telephone or a communication system with the bus station.
Information about the times and routes should
be given at each bus stop in a format that can be read by everyone,
including blind and partially sighted people.
The Czech Republic have developed an Audio Information
System for blind people that is used for bus, tram and Metro information.
This system is now being used by four thousand blind people and
should be extended to all parts of Europe.
Roads should be designed to make it possible
for accessible buses to give a regular service to passengers to
enable them to travel to work, to school or to the shops.
If this frequent bus service was available it
would make the mobility for blind and partially sighted people
a lot easier, and it may well reduce the numbers of people driving
their cars for short journeys.
Tram routes should be developed but they must
run along the side of the roads adjacent to the pavements as when
they are in the middle of the road it is too dangerous for blind
and partially sighted people to find them and reach them safely
to make use of them.
It would be safer for everyone if cycling facilities
were built in the middle of the road instead of tramways so they
were kept completely away from the pedestrian. There should be
no shared facilities for cyclists and pedestrians built anywhere,
as a cycle is an untaxed, unlicensed and usually ininsured vehicle,
and has injured many people and is stopping thousands of blind
people from walking safely and confidently.
In the late seventies the National Federation
of the Blind instigated a tactile paving that was a compromise
between the needs of blind people who needed to locate a pedestrian
crossing and to detect whether they were on the pavement or in
the road and a person using a wheel-chair who needed a ramped
kerb. The Federation also campaigned for audible and tactile signals
for all pedestrain crossings. Although many towns and cities have
introduced some of these facilities, many have not and we would
recommend that all roads have safe pedestrian crossings with audible
and tactile information for pedestrians. We do not welcome the
introduction of Toucan crossings for cyclists and pedestrians,
as they are extremely dangerous and as mentioned above, cyclists
should not be allowed to travel with the pedestrian.
In some countries the pedestrian signal box
for the crossing has a sound ticking mechanism which blind people
find very useful in locating the crossing and this should be introduced
into the UK.
We would recommend that the audible Puffin crossing
is the best designed crossing currently in use, as well as the
audible signal that is placed on ordinary sets of traffic lights
where they have a complete red phase. This should be installed
on all sets of traffic lights to make the crossing of roads safer
for everyone including blind and partially sighted people.
We would welcome the opportunity to discuss
these recommendations with you and will be prepared for these
recommendations to be published.
J. Allen-King MBE