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Towards a Visible City for Visually Impaired Users

17 Jun 2011
This event has now finished and the information below is for reference only.

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Where: Seminar room 505, Buchanan House, 58 Port Dundas Road, Glasgow G4 0HG
Times: 11:00 - 12:30


This webcast (based on the PhD findings of Dr Robert White, University of Strathclyde) presents a snapshot of the barriers inherent to the design of urban environments for individuals with different types and degree of visual field loss.  According to the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), there are an estimated 2.3 million visually impaired people living in the United Kingdom.  This figure is expected to increase to 4 million by 2030, due to the effects of an ageing population and the obesity epidemic.  

It is therefore essential to invest in the design of safe, accessible and sustainable environments, which are sympathetic to the needs of the visually impaired user.  The urban landscape in its current state resembles an obstacle course.  This results from a lack of mandatory regulations available to designers and planners, which specifically address the navigational needs of the visually impaired pedestrian beyond the curtilage of a building. 

This work embarks from the hypothesis that commonalities exist in the manner in which individuals with different types and degree of visual field loss experience barriers in the built environment.  Furthermore, it is hypothesised that the nature of these commonalities can be measured and incorporated into the – presently insufficient – building regulations. The question that arises is: How can design regulations integrate the specifications to collectively accommodate the varying needs of different visual impairments for seamless navigation in urban streetscapes?

This question is explored through a nationwide survey targeted at visually impaired users of the built environment.  The survey is followed by an access audit, which aims to quantify the number and type of hazards present within a typical city centre. The research is complemented by a series of user-based navigational experiments, which situate the problem through comparison of experiences between visually impaired and fully sighted cases. 

The collected data have been used to inform the creation of an evaluation tool, which measures both the adequacy of mandatory regulations and the degree that best practice guidelines are embraced by local authorities. When applied to the audited city centre, the tool reveals deficiencies in both the content of the regulations and in the adoption of the guidelines.  Enhanced guidelines are presented that incorporate the findings of the research results. 

The overall conclusion is that visually impaired people are not disabled by personal factors but by the design and physical influence of features within the built environment. The research contributes to an understanding that designing urban environments should be less about architectural fashion trends and more about creating practical spaces that cater for the needs of all users.



Dr Robert White, University of Strathclyde Glasgow

Dr Mike Grant, University of Strathclyde Glasgow


There are two ways to attend this event.

All CIC Start Online members will be invited to attend the online conference and will receive an email on the morning of the event.

Online attendance is free of charge to CIC Start Online members.

Please register as a member here – project membership is free.


You can also attend the conference in person - after the video is finished there will be time for discussion with the speaker, providing opportunities for networking with fellow delegates and the conference speakers.

If you wish to attend the seminar in person, please complete the registration form below.



Sorry this event is now fully booked.


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