You know those bumps on city sidewalks near crosswalks? Have you ever wondered what they’re for? I always thought they were meant to prevent people in wheelchairs from rolling into traffic.
If you’re walking in heels or you have sensitive feet then you may see these changes in the pavement as an uncomfortable inconvenience. However, they’re actually really helpful for a particular part of the population.
Those bumps are designed to give clues to people who are visually impaired; they’re like Braille for your feet. In the same way that raised dots on book pages relay information, those bumps on the ground do the same thing. They warn pedestrians with vision problems of upcoming changes in the sidewalk.
Bumps that form a grid mean that you are approaching a crosswalk. They are often painted different colors to further highlight that you are getting closer to an intersection. Bumps that are offset indicate that you are approaching a train platform.
Bumps aren’t the only tactile change that the visually impaired will notice. A raised pattern that forms stripes perpendicular to the path means that you are approaching steps or other obstacles you might trip on. Stripes parallel to the path mean that route is free from obstacles.
These pavement changes and others are probably more prevalent in major cities. In the video below, YouTuber Tom Scott and Richard Holmes from the Royal National Institute of Blind People talk about the pavement changes in Britain. Watch to see how these little city design hints truly impact people who don’t have good vision.
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This video demonstrates that not all assistive technology is electronic. Sometimes it just involves designing things with disabled people in mind. The next time you’re walking on city sidewalks, look down to see one of the ways cities assist people with disabilities.