Have you ever considered what it is like catching a train when you’re blind? Not being able to see the edge when you’re walking along the platform, and trying to find your way around a large and busy station with the sound of trains screaming in and out of platforms.
For 12 long years I caught the train to work in Simon’s Town and the fear of accidentally falling off the platform was never far from my mind. Okay, the fear was made worse by two bad experiences I had, one when I fell onto the platform, and one when Eccles fell off it. Thankfully, Craig was with me so he jumped down onto the tracks and tossed her back to safety but I can still recall the panic as if it were yesterday.
In Poland they have very simple and effective solutions to how to keep visually-impaired passengers safely away from the edge of the platform and also to help them find their way round train and metro stations. I don’t know what they’re really called, but Craig and I refer to them as blind-lines and Bubble-wrap.
The blind-lines are raised lines on the floor that guide people to and from key places in a station – from the stairs to the platform, from the ticket office to the elevator and so on. A blind passenger can follow the blind-lines with their white canes or with their feet when walking with a guide dog. The blind-lines help them to get from one place to another easily and quickly.
Bubble-wrap are also raised markings that look a bit like cobblestones. They are placed along the edge of the platform and give visually-impaired passengers clear warning that they are too close to the edge. As soon as you feel those raised markings you move back onto the platform to safety.
You may be wondering how Craig and I came up with these particular names for the markings. Well, they’re blind-lines because they really are lines that link places together for blind people. And we use the term bubble-wrap because it looks like someone unrolled the world’s biggest strip of bubble-wrap along the platform and glued it there.
I’m sure I’m not the only blind passenger who finds travelling on trains and metros something of a challenge, and these really simple and effective solutions go a long way towards easing those fears.
Hmm… I wonder what it would take to get them implemented in our railway stations in Cape Town…