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Hackathon Project #7: Tactile Sidewalk Wayfinding Strip


A continuous tactile path on all sidewalks that provides wayfinding to and contextual, place-based information about the nearest transit stop.

Use cases

  • Someone new to the neighborhood who is blind or partially sighted follows a path from their hotel to a nearby bus stop.
  • Someone who’s looking down at their phone notices that a crosswalk is coming up because of the tactile cue they’re stepping on.

This prototype must include

  • Indicate the direction of the nearest transit stop and provide warnings about crosswalks beginning / ending.
  • Must be able to integrate with the existing modular hexagonal paver system. These should be per-paver systems (either toppers for pavers or actually cast into the pavers themselves - this last option would require a limited number of types of wayfinding pavers to be defined).
  • Designed to be at least 2m away from potential vehicle or faster traffic in the center of the street.
  • Should be detectable with a white cane or with feet in shoes.
  • Should be immediately intuitive what different tactile indicators mean.

This prototype could optionally include

  • Could integrate with autogenerated beacon messages to give auditory complement to tactile wayfinding features.
  • A color coding system (ideally high-contrast) that makes the strip visually significant as well.
  • Include a system of differentiated textures to indicate more comprehensive wayfinding directions (distance to feature “30 more meters to the bus stop” or the corner, changes in direction “right turn ahead” and changes in walking context “entering crosswalk”) and information about the feature (“bus stop for Line A going north every 30 minutes”).

Major risks to work on/ What do we hope to learn

  • How wide should this be?
  • How many different kinds of tactile pavers are needed? Which textures work best (e.g. nested arrows, oriented patterns (dash, dot, space - always follow the dashes)
  • Should the system be a modular component that attaches to the pavers, or a series of modified pavers (with specific textures)?
  • How much information can be conveyed through tactile textures felt by foot or cane.
  • Will people bump into each other if there is only one line in the sidewalk to follow?
  • Is the system universal, direction or impractical since all wayfinding needs to be specific to origin/destination?
  • How many people can use it at once?
  • How tall should these indicators be?

Hardware/materials needed

  • Foamcore or thick 4-ply museum board or hard plastic material to cut into textures (thin enough to roll over, but thick enough to be felt)
  • Templates for basic texture shapes (dots, lines, grids, etc.)
  • Base material to set textures on (paper or real wood paver covers)
  • X acto knives
  • Rulers
  • Colored paper, paint or markers
  • Painters tape to space out other elements of the street

Special skills needed

  • Ability to cut, tape and glue
  • Ability to test with wheels

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