Tactile Pavement is a Necessity in the City

“Braille for the Feet” 


Recognizing tactile bumps with my white cane is reassuring to me as a vision-impaired pedestrian. 

35-Day Author Blogging Challenge – Day 11

“Truncated Domes,” “Braille for the Feet,”  “Tactile (or Hazard Warning) Pavement” are just a few of the terms I’ve seen used in regard to the bumps that appear around the United States to help the vision-impaired and blind. 

I, for one, am so grateful for them. Although I can only speak for myself, I cannot imagine many vision-impaired individuals who would think they were a waste of money to implement.

In my mobility training, I learned how to use these tactile clues as indicators that I was approaching a crossroads or oncoming traffic (or sometimes, stairs). I trained in the city and at every major intersection, I found them before I prepared myself to cross hectic city streets. 

Since that time, they’ve been implemented in my hometown and while the street crossings aren’t anywhere near as busy as the city, I still appreciate that  the town council, according to the Disabilities Act, have installed them.  Feeling the bumps with my cane reinforces my comfort and security. I don’t second-guess myself. Dragging my cane over these tactile bumps, or “Braille for the Feet” as I read in one article, allows me to move unhesitatingly forward to cross streets. I like having them in my neighborhood on both side streets and on main streets.

In preparing for this post, I found that even something as seemingly innocuous as pavement to help the blind had people lobbying against it. Citizens protested, calling it “ugly,”  “a waste of money” and even “dangerous to the elderly.” In addition, a comment was made, “How often do blind people go shopping?” 

Unfortunately, some of these comments arise from a lack of education. Many vision-impaired people do go shopping. I go shopping all the time, many times, alone.  In Erie County (Pennsylvania) where I live, the population is 290,000 people. 15% of them are legally blind. That means 43,500 can benefit from using tactile pavement. 

Color is vitally important. The brighter the color, the better the contrast and the easier it is to see it for those with residual vision.

Bright yellow is often used. Sometimes brick red is also used – but there is less contrast. I’ve even seen white. I suppose this can be helpful to those with night blindness. The contrast beside the concrete makes a big difference, especially if an individual doesn’t use any mobility aids– which I didn’t for years–though I should have. 

Tactile pavement is not only used at street crossings, it can be used at the top and bottom of steps to indicate a hazard. This is especially helpful when a vision-impaired person enters or exits a large public building (i.e. the courthouse). Truncated lines are used at railway stations. 

While cost is an issue, so is safety. It doesn’t do any good to cut on costs because it needs to be well- installed and maintained or then it creates a hazard. There are a number of issues brought up by those against implementing them in the city. 

Pioneers of tactile pavement began with the Japanese in 1965 (Yay! Another impressive invention from one of the countries where I lived!).

By 1985, National Japan Railways (now Japan Railway) had them throughout. Nowadays, yellow tactile crosswalks is used throughout Japan. The United Kingdom and Australia followed suit. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the United States began to implement them. 

road crossing with tactile bumps

The world is changing, becoming more aware of the needs of vision-impaired individuals. I belong to an international Sight Support group and I’ve heard members lament how slow change is to come to their part of the world. It’s only through education and resources that it will happen. 

I love those “bump dots,” as I call them and living in a small town. While I know that the Government Disabilities Act is behind the decision to install them, I like to think that when the Town Council sees me out and about, they realize that I’m not a statistic. I’m a real person who benefits. They know my dad. They know my family. They can see their actions have made a difference. I retain my mobility and independence, in part, because of these tactile aids.

What have you noticed about tactile pavement, its color, its efficiency or lack of it? Have you seen vision-impaired people using it? 

Tactile Pavement a Necessity
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10 thoughts on “Tactile Pavement a Necessity

  • September 24, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    I’ve never considered this but I do appreciate those street corners with tactile pavement. Even for the non-visually impaired not myself. It does enhance safety and keeps you more alert than standard sidewalk surfaces. It’s something I never considered previously. Thank you.

  • September 24, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    Dear Shonda,
    I love it when a reader considers something he or she previously never had. Bringing awareness to whatever the vision-impaired community is grappling with is essential in order to bridge any gap between the sighted and vision=impaired. Thank you so much for taking time to read my post and for taking a moment out to comment.

  • September 26, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    We have these where I live and work in upstate New York. I love them in the winter, when snow sometimes covers the sidewalks. Ours are orangy – I never thought of them as an aid to visually impaired but once you explained it – so obvious. How can people think that people with disabilities don’t get out, don’t socialize, don’t shop, don’t make contributions to society.

  • September 27, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Hi Nick,
    Yes, it does. The UK was a forerunner in paving the way for these slabs. 🙂

  • September 27, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Hi Alana,
    Yes, that’s right. I forgot about the orange-colored ones! They do make it easier with their texture in the winter to help everyone, even those who are not vision-impaired. Right. Those who think vision-impaired people don’t need to or can’t get out have likely never met a blind person. That old stereotype (along with pity) needs to be kicked to the curb! 🙂

  • September 28, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    Braille for the feet.
    Love that.
    You may not think of it as much that way. You don’t plan to learn braille, do you? Have you thought of it? It isn’t something quite as essential with technology and I know you can still see large print. I am glad I learned it even though I had a lot of sight at the time.
    I am in Toronto for a few days and I love the bright and tactile strip along the subway platform. It makes me feel less nervous being right next to those speeding trains and the drop down to the track.
    I don’t know why people have to complain about everything. They aren’t offering to do my shopping so they can’t say they don’t want the necessary steps needed to make my independence possible.

  • September 28, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    I love that term, too.
    I studied Braille for awhile and need to get back to it.
    You are so right! Why do some people have to make a stink even about something that will truly bring independence to others?
    I’m glad you spoke up about what it means to you. I’m going to incorporate the benefits of tactile pavement in my talks to educate people.
    Thanks so much for taking time out of your exciting time in Toronto to comment.

  • October 29, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    It is useful for people staring into their smartphones too.

  • October 29, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    Thank you for your comment but not sure what you mean by it.

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