Highly Commended for the Mobility Choice Award for Independent Mobility
A new type of tactile pavement tile that not only provides an essential guide for people with walking sticks but also accommodates the needs of different people such as those using wheelchairs or pushchairs or wearing high heels
According to the UK Government’s Department for Transport, the purpose of a tactile paving surface or corduroy surface is to warn visually impaired people of the presence of specific hazards and actions that are required. They become universal signals for people with visual impairment but there are issues surrounding its existing application. First of all, tactile surfaces create difficulties for other users such as wheelchair and pushchair, cyclists and high-heeled users. The surfaces can be slippery for older people, and for the visual impaired community, they also create confusion since there is no common system for all countries. The surfaces are only beneficial to the minority of visual impaired users who use walking sticks.
Initial research was carried out by observing the application of tactile tiles in different countries. It was found that use of patterns (dot and strip), size and colour vary in the urban areas of Japan, England (London), France (Paris) and Germany (Munich). The first design experiment was to apply new pattern ideas including coloured and printed patterns to existing tactile surface. The aim was to enhance the visual experience of tactile tiles and to make them more than a functional tool. After different user input, the project refocused on the design of the tactile patterns themselves. Detailed testing of the gap size and depth of ridges was carried out to understand the functional characters of existing tactile surfaces.
The project aimed to investigate applications of tactile paving tiles and other cues to help people to navigate in urban areas regarding basic messages such as 'hazard’ and ‘proceed with caution'. Intensive observation and interviews were conducted a complicated urban situation e.g. the long Exhibition Road tunnel in London that links different museums and the underground station. Tourists from different countries, parents with pushchairs or children and partially sighted people all said they found it difficult to navigate in an unfamiliar environment. More specific testing was done with a walking stick user, high-heel wearers and pushchair users.
Tac-tile is the final design result after many prototypes and testing with different users. Two areas are tackled with this new design: