Laura, thank you for sharing and celebrating the “Tenji Block” with us in such an interesting post! Like you said it is definitely important that we should incorporate universal designs in the public realm, especially for the vulnerable people. It has especially become a concern to involve universal design, where designers are creating blended, mixed pavements, which are mainly used to slow down drivers. But also, the idea of having a less dominated car scenes within the streets. Below is an example of Shared Space.
Shared Spaces are bad for visually impaired people (VIPs) because many facilities that help a VIP orientate and navigate their surrounding are removed, such as kerbs, pedestrian crossings and traffic signals (Havik, et al., 2015, p.97). A person would use their eyes a lot more and pay attention on shared surfaces because of the lack of crossings and signal to be aware of cars. Therefore, if a VIP lose these clues, it would be even more difficult to navigate around the streets.
Furthermore, some may think these facilities are not important for those who are visually impaired but there are small details that really help a VIP. An example would be the traffic lights, as they have a small metal cone sticking out at the bottom of the button box, where you press to change the lights. As the cone spins, a VIP can tell that they are allowed to cross the road, which is significantly important because some lights do not have a beeping sound (Ouchlets, 2013). Below is an image showing the small metal cone.
I feel that it is great that designers are considering more about the hierarchy of pedestrians over motor vehicles. However, we should not marginalise vulnerable people, as they are pedestrians too! The adaptations to new elements would take time, as VIPs are used to traditional elements that guide them.