Vision impaired visitors and residents of Sydney will find the task of making their way around the city to be safer and more convenient following the role out of what the local council claims is the world’s most comprehensive network of braille and tactile signs.
In its latest announcement, the City of Sydney said that tactile aluminum panels which feature street names and building numbers in both braille and large, raised lettering to allow touch-reading by people who are blind and close range reading for those with low vision are in place next to push buttons at signalised crossings across the City of Sydney area.
Whilst primarily designed for the vision impaired, the new panels – which have replaced older and more worn out rubber panels – will also make street location information easier to access across the board.
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the new network was part of a strategy to make the city more inclusive and accessible to everyone, and that the importance of well thought out urban design could not be understated in this regard.
“It’s about making sure everyone is able to be active in their community and make meaningful connections,” Moore said.
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT access and technology officer Nicole Holmes, who herself uses a guide dog, said the signs were easy to read and enabled vision impaired residence to move through the city with greater levels of confidence.
From her personal experience, Holmes said the ability to identify her location without needing to count streets or engage in other forms of orientation strategies enabled her to move through the city with lower levels of stress and anxiety.
More than 2,100 panels have been installed.
The panel network is part of the City ‘legible Sydney wayfinding’ system which also includes pedestrian-friendly maps, information pylons and news signs and digital technology.
According to Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, there are around 10,000 people with permanent vision loss throughout New South Wales – a number expected to grow by around 20 percent by 2020.