Tactile paving helps visually-impaired pedestrians

Posted in: Highways


Tactile paving promotes safety at intersections for all pedestrians alike. The braille-like domes just before a crosswalk serve an important purpose. Some may think they help with traction, but the truth is that they are one of the most common and cost-effective Americans with Disabilities Act-approved accommodations. Creating non-visual cues within transportation infrastructure is crucial due to the high number of visually impaired and disabled people who rely on pedestrian accommodations.

Tactile paving was adopted for pedestrian curbs by the United States in 2001. These tiles have truncated “brailled” domes that warn pedestrians of both a change in elevation and a change in safety. Ramps connecting elevated sidewalks to roadways can be dangerous for a blind pedestrian who cannot see the platform’s height difference. Additionally, the tiles alert visually impaired pedestrians that they are about to walk onto an active roadway.

In the US, truncated domes must comply with certain size specifications, and the tiles must visually contrast with the pavement/sidewalk surface. There are a number of “upgrades” to tactile paving, and disability rights activists are looking to other countries for more comprehensive tiles that address a wider variety of sight impairments, including:

  • Using color-coded tiles and shape-coded domes that visually and tactilely cue the type of upcoming roadway crossing
  • Creating “blind lanes” using tiles with elongated ridges to denote a safe walkway on a sidewalk, while the truncated domes indicate an upcoming stop
  • Tiles with built-in colored LED lights that increase visibility at night

As we design and build communities, it’s our responsibility to be sensitive to the concerns of each community and their needs. Blending visual and tactile cues that are safe for all pedestrians is a priority in our designs. I look forward to seeing pedestrian innovations that balance safety for everyone.

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About the Author

Raymond Hamilton, PE is a roadway design engineer with 11 years of experience in the transportation industry. He has worked on numerous sidewalks and shared-use paths that comply with ADA standards and Public Right-of-Way Accessibility Guideline standards.

One response on “Tactile paving helps visually-impaired pedestrians

  1. This is awesome. Chester has had all sidewalks at intersections in the main thoroughways in downtown Chester improved with this tactile paving. I never totally understood the purpose. Great information. Way to go Raymond!

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