To help people impacted by blindness and low vision navigate in outdoor environments safely and independently, a clear path of travel is crucial, one free of obstruction such as common outdoor elements (e.g. park benches and garbage cans). The path of travel must also be separated from restaurant patios or other obstructions; iether temporary or permenant.
A Path of travel can be defined as “any space in a public facility where people might be expected to move from one point to another”.
It’s essential to pay attention to the design of paths of travel when considering people impacted by blindness as an accessible route will allow them to navigate public spaces safely and independently.
Paths of travel should be wide enough to allow an individual with a guide dog to pass a person using a wheelchair who is travelling in the opposite direction. The width of a path of travel should be a minimum of 1,800 mm.
An accessible path of travel should ideally be straight, with turns as equal to 90 degrees as possible. A straight path is easier to follow for people impacted by blindness. Curved or winding paths are more difficult to detect, more difficult to describe when giving verbal directions and more difficult for frequent users to memorize. Primary paths of travel that are clearly differentiated from the surrounding area are much easier to navigate. In large open outdoor areas, using textured surfaces to differentiate paths of travel from adjacent areas makes the path easier to navigate. The path’s surfaces should be firm, stable, slip resistant and free of glare. Busy and heavily patterned surfaces should be avoided as they can result in visual confusion and disorientation.
Place benches, garbage cans, planters, signs, bus stop shelters and other streetscape elements outside the path of travel – ideally in an amenity zone that is clearly differentiated from the path of travel using ground finishes that contrast in colour and texture.
Elements of use to pedestrians (e.g., benches and waste receptacles) located near the path of travel should be within 600 mm of the edge of the pathway so that a person using a long cane can easily detect them.
Sandwich boards or temporary signs should be avoided wherever possible. These can create major obstacles for all kinds of people especially anyone impacted by blindness, making independent travel unnecessarily difficult. If deemed necessary, they should be placed well outside the path of travel.
Gratings should be positioned so that their long openings are perpendicular to the path of travel. To prevent a long mobility cane from becoming entrapped in gratings, the spacing between the openings should be 13 mm or less, measured edge-to-edge.
The path of travel around restaurant patios, located in the typical path of travel, should be separated from the patio by a cane-detectable barrier. The route around it should be clearly marked using cane-detectable guidance TWSIs, or it should have textured surfaces that are detectable by a long cane and underfoot.
Restaurant Patios and Sidewalk Extensions
To ensure outdoor patios do not hinder the ability for people with vision impairment to navigate safely, the path of travel around restaurant patios should be separated from the patio by a cane detectable barrier. The route around it should be clearly detectable and be wide enough for someone traveling with a sighted guide or guide dog to safely navigate around the patio; 1.8 meters wide.