Pedestrian facilities for people with visual impairment

Streets can be daunting places for people with visual impairment. Find out about tactile paving and devices at crossings that TransportNI provides.

Tactile paving

The top surface of tactile paving is shaped to let the walker feel it underfoot. It is mostly used to indicate where a road crossing is but can also be used at the top and bottom of steps or to show where a cycle route runs alongside a footway.

Different types of surface profiles are used in different situations.

Crossings

Tactile paving is used to let you know where a dedicated crossing point is.

At all new dedicated crossing points the footway and the road will be at the same level to assist wheelchair users.

The lack of a kerb edge however makes it difficult for someone with a visual impairment to know where the footway ends and the road begins. Tactile paving is used to help warn people that they may be about to step onto the road.

The tactile paving used at dedicated crossing points has rows of raised ball-like blisters which are set in line to help show the walker the right direction to cross the road. It is also coloured to stand out from the surrounding footway surface and the colour used will depend on the type of crossing.

Red paving is used at crossings where the traffic has to stop to allow the pedestrian to cross, such as:

  • zebras
  • pelicans
  • puffins
  • toucans
  • road junctions with traffic signals

Buff or light brown paving, or any colour other than red that contrasts with the surrounding surface, is used at other dedicated crossing points where there is nothing to control the flow of traffic and make it stop.

These crossings are usually at junctions and may include features such as:

  • lowered kerbs
  • tactile paving
  • central pedestrian refuges
  • footway build-outs
  • speed reducing features such as road humps

At all crossings there will normally either be two or three rows of tactile paving in the approach to the kerb edge of a crossing point. The width of tactile paving provided will match the length of the lowered kerb.

There may also be a stem which extends to the back of the footpath. This forms an ‘L’ shape of tactile paving and is provided to help guide you to either the push button controls or the zebra pole of the crossing.

Steps

Tactile paving is also used to indicate the top and bottom of steps. Here it will have rounded, parallel, corduroy-like bars which run the width of the tile. The tiles are laid so that the bars run across the direction of pedestrian travel.

Shared footways and cycleways

Tactile paving is also used to indicate where pedestrians and cyclists share a footpath separated either by a white line or by a raised white line with sloped sides. This tactile paving, while similar to the corduroy paving used at steps, has instead flat topped bars which run the length of the tile.

The tactile paving is parallel to the direction of travel at the start and finish of the cycle lane section and across the direction of travel at the start and finish of the pedestrian section. Where the shared route is a large distance, tactile paving should be repeated at intervals to further confirm to a pedestrian with a visual impairment that they are still on the right side of the route.

Devices at crossings

Two types of device can be provided at crossings controlled by traffic lights to help people with a visual impairment - either audible ‘beeping’ signals or tactile signals, such as rotating cones.

These devices indicate when the ‘green man’ or ‘it’s safe to cross’ phase of the lights is displayed.

Audible signals make a continuous beeping sound when it is safe to cross. For the safety of pedestrians these are only provided at crossings away from all others or at junctions where the traffic in all directions is stopped at the same time.

Tactile signals or ‘rotating cones’ are found on the underside of the push button control box and rotate when it is safe to cross.

More information

For queries about any of these measures, please contact your local Department for Infrastructure (DfI) Roads office in your council area.

An information leaflet is also available from the DfI website about facilities it provides for the safety of people with visual impairment.

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