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Sydney launches world’s largest tactile network

The world’s most comprehensive network of braille and tactile signs is in place at all signalised pedestrian crossings in the City of Sydney area, making it safer and easier for people of all abilities to navigate our streets.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the City had installed more than 2,100 braille and raised letter signs following extensive community consultation and on-site testing with the Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and Vision Australia.

“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,” the Lord Mayor 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 to allow touch-reading by people who are blind and close range reading for those with low vision. They have been placed next to push buttons at signalised crossings across the City of Sydney area, replacing worn out rubber panels.

While the signs are designed primarily for those who are blind and vision impaired, it will also make street location information easier to access for everyone.

Vision Australia and Guide Dogs NSW have welcomed the sign network, saying many people will 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. In the words of Stevie Wonder, ‘We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability’,” said Michael Simpson, General Manager NSW Client Services, Vision Australia.

“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.”

According to Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, there are around 100,000 people with non-correctable vision loss in NSW, and that number is predicted to increase by more than 20 per cent by 2020.

Access and Technology Officer for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, Nicole Holmes, who uses a Guide Dog, said the installation complements the assistance people may get from a white cane or Guide Dog.

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

“Being able to identify where I am without having to concentrate on orientation methods such as counting streets makes trips through the city far more pleasurable now.

“The signs are easy to locate and read, whether you are reading the braille or raised print.”

The network of tactile signs is part of the City’s ‘legible Sydney wayfinding system’ that also includes pedestrian-friendly maps, information pylons, signs and digital technology.

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