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Thank Laura for your post! You raised a really thought-provoking issue on blind residents as a part of cities that we usually ignore. I would like to go further discussing why promoting safe and comfortable condition for these people are with advantage for whole people living. Moreover, how could visually impaired people affect cities’ environment?

Why we should build a friendly environment for the blind?

The truth is, people with sight usually do not notice tiny obstacles. When we walk on a street, once we ‘see’ barriers such as poles, steps, or bumpy surfaces, we could just bypass them unconsciously. However, for blind dwellers, it’s a whole different world for them. Any minuscule detail for them could be a significant risk, a busy intersection could be a nightmare for their experience in cities. Chris Downey, an architect, planner, and consultant who has lost his sight due to a surgery to remove a brain tumour, has stated that a city needs blind people to make it better, safer, and more comfortable. If we design a city by consideration of the blind, it will achieve an environment with a rich, walkable network for pedestrians. Moreover, sidewalks will be predictable and more generous.

How can we reach the goal of a good city?

Furthermore, the process to reach the goal of the good city, we need them, we need visually impaired people to help build the environment. In 2011, there was a research by Claudia Folska, an urban planning and cognitive science doctoral student who has been blind since she was five years old. In the study, she asked the blind people and recorded the routes between the local lightrail station and their daily destination. The result showed that their mental maps and walking paths are quite similar. Also, some places are empty on the map which meant they never pass through the area. The reason is that those placed made them feel dangerous and risky. By drawing down their daily path, the blank zones are alarm signs for planners. They should focus more pedestrians and less on vehicles and transit.

Folska once said ‘The path is the most important part of buildings and individual cognitive map. That is how person build an image of their environment whether in indoor or outdoor. ’ If we pay more attention to the sidewalks, cities could be more sustainable and friendly for generous dwellers.


References:

Authority, N. and Design, C. (2019). What is Universal Design | Centre for Excellence in Universal Design. [online] Universaldesign.ie. Available at: http://universaldesign.ie/What-is-Universal-Design/ [Accessed 23 Apr. 2019].

Downey, C. (2019). Transcript of “Design with the blind in mind”. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/chris_downey_design_with_the_blind_in_mind/transcript#t-252269 [Accessed 23 Apr. 2019].

Lehrer, J., Lehrer, J., Rubin, P., Allain, R., Ellis, E., Beane, M., Lapowsky, I. and Martineau, P. (2019). Navigating Cities, for the Blind. [online] WIRED. Available at: https://www.wired.com/2011/09/st-qafolska/ [Accessed 23 Apr. 2019].

 

School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

Tel: 0191 208 6509

Email: nicola.rutherford@ncl.ac.uk


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