Hazard and Obstacle Minimisation
People with vision impairment often encounter hazards and obstacles as they travel through the environment. Simple design solutions to minimise hazards will benefit the entire community.
What is the difference between obstacles and hazards?
Obstructions or obstacles are things that prevent or hinder movement and cause inconvenience. These might include planters, A-frame signs, outdoor dining areas, cafe seating. Hazards are things that can obstruct movement but also generate issues of safety. These may include overhead obstacles and pedestal objects.
- Uneven footpaths due to tree roots (tripping hazard)
- Overhanging signs, trees and foliage (overhead hazard)
- Pedestal objects such as telephone booths (head height hazard)
- Poorly designed stairs and escalators where there is no protection underneath (head height hazard)
- Skateboards / Bicycles
- Planter boxes
- A-frame signs and other advertising boards
- Outdoor dining areas / café seating
- Shop displays
- Street furniture
- Prams and pushers
- People standing in the middle of the footpath
Things to keep in mind when considering obstacles...
- Overhead Obstacles - should be at least 2000mm above the ground, preferably 2400mm as per Australian Standards. This includes signs, roofing, or tree branches and foliage.
- Trees and Foliage - Trees and shrubs are often obstacles for people with vision impairment. Councils are encouraged to address the issue of overhead obstacles, in particular trees overhanging footpaths and footways. Landscapers should consider the types of trees used on streets.
- Footpath or Footway Surfaces - All footpath surfaces should conform to the relevant Australian Standards.Paving bricks should not have bevelled edges greater than 3mm, that may cause a long cane to catch in the recessed area.
- Pedestal Objects - Pedestal objects usually have above ground dimensions greater than their base. These include telephone booths on stands, tables, benches and railings with no lower sections. People using long canes may not be able to detect these raised objects in time to prevent colliding with them.
- Hazard Marking - Where hazards exist temporarily in the environment such as construction work on a footpath, it is important that the hazard is correctly barricaded. Incorrect barricading can result in people with vision impairment encountering the hazard unexpectedly which may lead to injury.
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