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Railway station designer takes part in blindfold walk

Kristian Gradev, a Consultant working on refurbishments at Manchester Victoria Station, joined RNIB for a blindfold walk to learn more about accessibility.

Principal Designer Kristian met up with Terri Balon, Regional Campaigns Officer for the North West, and our Volunteer Campaign Coordinator for Ashton-Under-Lyne, Pete Forrester, to gain some practical experience, following an online meeting about our accessible street design guidance.

We were thrilled that a representative from Vextrix, a company which frequently works on accessibility upgrades at stations, wanted to learn more about how changes can make the station even more accessible.

Accessibility in built environments

The group spoke at length about all aspects of accessibility in built environments, including the importance of lighting, different types of canes and tactile maps. 

Terri shared photographs to demonstrate the effects of different eye conditions.

Kristian said:

"It is very easy to see how strong light can cause severe discomfort to partially sighted users. The halo effect was also really disorienting. It is important that any new lighting installations account for adjustable light temperature and brightness."

Terri and Pete then used sim-specs to simulate different eye conditions for Kristian. He experienced the difficulty of moving around the station area with sight loss.

After completing a number of navigation challenges using a cane, Kristian explained: "Navigating a station concourse with only the vibration that’s transmitted almost onto your hand was incredibly difficult! Also, every uneven patch on the floor is incredibly disorienting."

Next steps

Terri and Kristian kept the dialogue going after the blindfold walk:

"Kristian was very engaged and has already come back to me multiple times with follow up questions. I am sure the opportunity to gain an insight into the barriers blind and partially sighted people face, while navigating train stations, will assist him and Vextrix in creating more inclusive designs in the future."

Kristian has since gone back to his team with feedback on what he learnt, as well as ideas on how Vextrix can make future designs more accessible. 

Blindfold walks are a brilliant way for us to offer an insight into the experiences of blind and partially sighted people, demonstrating some of the barriers they face day to day. If you are interested in taking part in a blindfold walk, or know of someone who may be, you can find out more by contacting your Regional Campaigns Officer.