SO I WAS at the bus interchange a few weeks back and came across a petite middle-aged lady selling tissue papers by the sidewalk. She was visually-impaired and cheerily called out to passers-by to buy her sales. I stopped by to give a small donation and just as I said “Have a nice day!”, she asked me if I could do her a favour.

The lady needed my help to dispose of her finished lunch box.

“Thank you ah! It’s very hard for me to find a dustbin here!”

And it hit me how difficult it must be navigating without having eyesight, let alone to locate specific landmarks – be it the nearest washroom, the next ATM or something we so often take for granted: the dustbin. Do half of us out there even bother to dispose our waste materials properly?

My friend Kamesh once shared with the class a photograph of a infrastructure she stumbled upon whilst on an exchange trip in Japan. It was of an information kiosk/street map that was visually handicap-friendly.

Information Kiosk/Street Map in Japan
Photo contributed by Kamesh Raja

The photograph shows the information kiosk that was located in the Hamamatsu City of Japan. From surface view, both the sighted and visually-impaired can use the map. There were words (in both Braille and printed Japanese) under each landmark – hospitals, attractions, street names etc. Orange buttons were available for those who require audio, a feature that is most useful for the visually-impaired.

A simple concept of universal design. What a great initiative to have such a kiosk that serves both the sighted and visually-impaired populations. Making an audio option available also allows for illiterate persons or near-sighted elderly to navigate through the city. Best is that such kiosks are readily available throughout the city centre.

Singapore is still far from becoming an inclusive society with such extent of infrastructure. Even the installation of traffic lights with audio signalling has been removed as a result of complaints by HDB residents that the frequent noise is disruptive.

With regards to travelling, no doubt that there has been increased efforts to install tactile markers on ground for the visually-impaired to navigate safely along the sidewalks and especially within bus and train stations. But we hardly see such populations travel independently in public. How do I get from Point A to Point B? Who do I approach for help? Can you help me see and guide me in the right direction?

Food for thought.

Thank you Kamesh for the wonderful sharing!

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About Nani Adilla Zailani

Essentially, living in the moment and loving all things beautiful.

Category

Technology, Travel Stories, Universal Design

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