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Navigating a city with a visual impairment – revealing the reality in Budapest

Author: Richard Adams
Posted on: Tuesday, February 13, 2018 - 22:52

Meeting and addressing the mobility needs of all groups is a crucial part of integrated transport planning - but what obstacles need to be overcome to achieve this?

A special walk through Budapest, organised in January as part of a CIVITAS SUNRISE project visit, revealed the challenges people with visual impairments face when navigating the city environment.

The SUNRISE action neighbourhood in the city, Zugló-Törökőr, is home to an Institute for the Blind; several people with a visual impairment walk and travel through the area daily.

The visiting group discovered both the specific obstacles they encounter and potential solutions to overcome them. After only a few minutes, they reached a problematic feature on a street corner.

Raised concrete blocks had been installed to help and protect pedestrians crossing the road. However, they prove confusing to people with a visual impairment, limiting their ability to judge where the curb (and thus the pavement) end and the road began.

Several such examples of curbs and pavements appeared during the walk, alongside hazardous uneven paving. Other objects found on streets that people normally navigate automatically, such as a restaurant advertising board, are also potential dangers for those with limited sight.

To make street corners safer for all, a possible approach would be to install a standard traffic light crossing with specially adapted tactile paving; a changing pattern alerts people with a visual impairment when the road is approaching.

The walk also took participants to Zugló train station. Despite being a popular and busy place and important to mobility in the city, it has no specific facilities or assistance for people with no or limited sight. Utilising tactile paving and audio prompts would enable them to orientate themselves more safely, both on and around platforms.

Zuglo has a programme for people living with particular mobility needs, whilst in Törökö this approach will be developed further. The SUNRISE project in Törökör will therefore have a special focus on the elderly, children and people with disabilities.

To find out more about CIVITAS SUNRISE, click here

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