Guide Dog Association Warns Of Curb-less Dangers
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 19, 2006
READING, ENGLAND--A town without curbs might be a dream for wheelchair users, but it's proving to be a nightmare for blind and partially sighted pedestrians in some English towns.
The Guide Dogs organization, formerly known as the "Guide Dogs for the Blind Association", released a report on September 15 strongly warning that the creation of new "shared surface schemes", where there is no distinction between roads and paved sidewalks, are putting the safety of blind and partially sighted people and other vulnerable groups "at serious risk".
Shared surface projects, already in place in a few towns, are being introduced across the country to try and calm traffic. The theory behind them is that cars will have to slow down in order to negotiate between pedestrians and bicyclists.
Guide Dogs spoke to several focus groups and found that removing curbs left blind walkers and their guide dogs without any way of knowing where it is safe to walk. The schemes also rely heavily on drivers having eye contact with pedestrians -- a dangerous concept for blind people navigating busy traffic.
"Unless the needs of visually impaired people are incorporated into such schemes, we'll soon be reading about fatalities," said Tom Pey, Guide Dogs' director of policy and development, in a press statement.
"Some of the designs are death traps. One guide dog owner has already suffered a potentially life-threatening incident in a town center, and there have been several other near misses in shared surface zones."
The charity made a number of recommendations, such as including tactile information to let pedestrians know when they are entering and leaving a shared surface area, and installing audible and tactile signals at controlled crossings.
Shared Surface Street Design: Guide Dogs Research Project (Guide Dogs)