Tactile Paving – Guidance for improving disabled access

Ever wondered whether there was a reason for those texture paving surfaces you see in the pavement and near steps? The answer is, of course, yes. These tactile surfaces – typically corduroy or blisters are used to designate essential information about the built environment to those with visual impairments and to improve disabled access.

Used properly tactile paving provide lots of information about where to cross road, where hazards are and where the top and bottom of steps might be. Used wrongly they do none of these things and may actually indicate things so badly that they are a danger. Used badly they can convey the wrong information to those who need it most.

During our disabled access audits we regularly see examples of bad installation and design so we though a short post giving guidance on how to use tactile surfaces might help – we’ll throw in some pictures of poor work as well.

BS 8300 provides a start point for these tactile surfaces which is reinforced by Part M of the building regulations. Further guidance is available in the Centre for Accessible Environments guide to Designing for Accessibility.

Blister paving

Blister paving is the type you see with lots of regular raised bobbles or blisters and  is used to designate pedestrian crossing points for roads and carriageways, nothing else.  Please don’t use it at the top or bottom of steps or ramps! Typically this form of tactile paving has a surface that has parallel rows of flat-topped blisters (domes). It can be installed at both controlled and uncontrolled crossings.  Sometimes you see this as stainless steel or plastic features set into paving.

 

For a controlled crossing the paving is usually coloured red and for all other crossings it is usually buff. In all cases it should contrast with the surrounding paving. In some sensitive places such as conservation areas brass studs can be used on York stone or similar slabs.

Corduroy paving

This form of tactile paving has long, regularly spaced raised ribs to warn blind and partially sighted people of a potential hazard ahead. The ribs, spaced at 50 mm centres, are installed at right angles to the direction of travel.

This type of tactile paving is very often used to designate steps and stairs. It is important that it is installed correctly and in the correct location – 400mm from the head and base of steps. It can also be used to designate hazards such as a cycle lane crossing a pavement. It is not usually used to designate the head and base of ramps and the general guidance and recommendation is to avoid this usage, properly formed ramps at the correct gradient should not need a warning at their head and base.

You will probably need to cover the use of tactile surfaces in any building regulation application that requires an access statement. An Access Statement is an explanation of how access and facilities for people with disabilities and others has been addressed in a particular scheme and is used by Building Control to assess compliance with Part M of the Building Regulations. We recommend that you take professional advice when preparing this statement.

And, when it’s not quite right…

A couple of examples of how not to do it – almost certainly these have been left to builders to design, and inadvertently they just get it so wrong.

Example 1 – an access ramp at a  London school.  Not only have they used corduroy paving which is not for ramps they have used it on the ramp. When I quizzed them during the access audit I was doing I was told that the contractor put the corduroys there “for grip”! The result of their error is a completely unusable ramp – any wheelchair user is going to struggle to self-propel up this ramp!

Example 2-, a large transport terminus. Corduroy paving is down as required, but this time about 1000mm from the top of the steps and also laid at the top of the ramp, so if you were visually impaired what would you be expecting when you walked over the corduroys – a ramp or a step?  You should expect steps and you should expect the first of these 400mm after the corduroys not 1m.

Example 3 – and there’s more at the transport hub. At the bottom of the steps the corduroy is bang up against the bottom step and not 400mm away. For what it’s worth, there are also problems with the handrails and the steps which will form the subject of later postings.

Example 4 – no tactile markings at all, badly contrasted paving, disastrous handrails – all in all, an accident waiting to happen. Not just for the visually impaired, but also the ambulant less-abled and even the able bodied.

Not sure whether your premises need tactile paving or whether what you have laid down meets the recommendations of BS 8300, you may benefit or need an access audit. Even if you had an audit some time ago it’s often worth having the audit updated to ensure that disabled access to your site and premises is as good as can be expected.

If Collier Stevens can help please let us know. Recent commissions for access audits include Police Stations, TV Studios and retail units.

(Originally published by Steven Way, 17 September 2011)