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Sydney Launches Largest Tactile Network in the World

Tuesday, 5th July 2016 at 11:49 am
Wendy Williams
The world’s largest network of tactile and braille street signs has been launched in Sydney to help visually impaired pedestrians navigate the streets.

Tuesday, 5th July 2016
at 11:49 am
Wendy Williams



Sydney Launches Largest Tactile Network in the World
Tuesday, 5th July 2016 at 11:49 am

The world’s largest network of tactile and braille street signs has been launched in Sydney to help visually impaired pedestrians navigate the streets.

Man with white cane walking RS

More that 2,100 braille and raised-letter signs have been installed at pedestrian crossings across the City of Sydney area following extensive community consultation and on-site testing with Vision Australia and Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

The panels were officially launched on Monday by Lord Mayor Clover Moore who said it was the “world’s largest tactile network”.

Vision Australia general manager NSW client services, Michael Simpson said many people would benefit from clear, consistent and accessible wayfinding information.

“Making Sydney accessible for all visitors and residents is a great step towards creating an inclusive society,” Simpson said.

“In the words of Stevie Wonder, ‘We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability’.

“At Vision Australia we work hard towards that reaching goal and we are proud of our involvement in this project.

“As an experienced NDIS and My Age Care provider, we help people living with blindness or low vision reach their individual goals – whether that is travelling independently around a city or keeping up with their favourite books and magazine through our accessible library.”

Vision Australia’s coordinator of volunteers Rolf Geerlings, who was at the launch, told Pro Bono Australia News it was amazing.

“When you consider, I think there are 2,100 signs around the city of Sydney on major streets, to do that undertaking is quite huge and what is so good about the way in which City of Sydney did it, was they didn’t just do one little pocket they’ve done the whole lot so you can actually navigate the whole lot… so that makes it so much easier,” Geerlings said.

“It feels fantastic. Once you know, once you get an understanding of where they [the panels] are… you find the first one and you can then navigate and find the rest of them. It is very prominent.

“The signs they have had made up are fantastic. They are made out of metal, the braille is so tactile and strong and you can easily read it. So they have really done a lot of research into it and I think the end product of what they have come up with is amazing.”

Geerlings said the benefit will not just be felt by Sydneysiders.

“It is important to the visitors as well,” he said.

“Because anybody from any other country now can come if they know braille or the raised lettering and they can certainly find their way pretty easily.”

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT access and technology officer Nicole Holmes, who uses a Guide Dog, said the installation complements the assistance people may get from a white cane or Guide Dog.

“The new signs help people who are vision impaired to move through the city safely, independently and with confidence,” Holmes said.

Moore said they wanted to make the city more inclusive.

“We want to make our city accessible to everyone and give people an experience that looks after their needs and allows them to enjoy the best our city has to offer,” she said.

“That means carefully planning and designing our physical environment, and taking practical steps to make our city more socially and economically inclusive.

“It’s about making sure everyone is able to be active in their community and make meaningful connections.”

The tactile aluminium panels feature street names and building numbers in both braille and large, raised lettering.

It forms part of the City’s ‘legible Sydney wayfinding system’ that also includes pedestrian-friendly maps, information pylons, new signs and digital technology.

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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