Welcome to the Aidis Trust blog. Here you’ll find our posts on assistive technology that are meant to inform and encourage discussion. Feel free to join in!

Crossing the Road

pelican crossing

Neatebox, a company in Glasgow have come up with something they think will improve pelican crossings for disabled people.

Ever had trouble finding the pole to press the button to cross? Or are you in a wheelchair and have difficulties parking in a position that allows you to press it? Well, Neatebox have invented a system where a disabled person has an app on their phone, which interacts with the pole and automatically presses the button. So, all the disabled person has to do is approach the crossing and wait.

The system is designed to make it easier for disabled people, particularly blind people, as the poles are often not near the crossing. Someone on a BBC article on the subject, said they even sometimes used a pelican crossing where the pole was in the bushes next to it.

The Problem?

It’s one of those things, that while it’s designed with good intentions, it isn’t exactly very practical. Councils are reluctant enough as it is to put in pelican crossings, so they’re hardly going to want to pay extra for this technology.

In my local area, when redesigning the town centre, they took out the pelican crossing and wouldn’t replace it despite serious opposition from local charities and organisations. Apparently, there is supposed to be a system where pedestrians and traffic interact with each other.

Naturally, this doesn’t work. The traffic doesn’t stop for anyone. In a mobility lesson, the instructor and I, stood at the edge of the road for over a minute and no one stopped for us. So, I have to walk to a crossing further away, which is a bit quieter. It wasn’t even a proper crossing at the time, there is the bumpy pavement used to indicate a crossing, but no stripes on the road. Local charities had multiple meetings with the local authority, but they would not listen.

Months later, they put in a zebra crossing. And when I say “put in a zebra crossing” I mean they actually took the time to paint stripes on the road at the point where there was already the bumpy pavement to indicate a crossing. I thought I was seeing things when I saw the white lines beneath my feet as I crossed the road. Thing is, I know times are hard, but one would think that it would be cheaper just to buy a tin of white paint and paint the lines, than spend council staff time and money on hiring rooms and buying teas and coffees to have meetings for people to complain. But my point is, if people aren’t keen to put in a pelican crossing in the first place, then they’re hardly going to want to spend extra on this new technology.

Additionally, surely the solution to this problem, is to educate people who put in pelican crossings, to make them think more carefully about where they are putting the pole. Putting the pole in the bushes for example, is obviously not a good idea. It’s a problem for people who are blind, people in wheel chairs, small children, elderly people and to be honest people in general. Surely if people applied a bit more common sense when planning these things, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. I also wonder at how anyone could possibly persuade someone who thinks it’s acceptable to put their pole in an inappropriate place, to purchase such technology.

But that’s Not All

Neatebox have a similar system for when people arrive at a place. They install a device at the entrance of a building, which interacts with an app on the blind person’s phone, to notify the reception when the blind person has arrived. This is designed to resolve the issue that blind people sometimes cannot find the reception.

The thing is, I don’t think we should be relying on technology so much. Navigating to find things, while at times tricky, is one of those things that the more you do, the better you become at it. If technology is taking that practise away, then blind people are less skilled and not equipped to deal with a situation where that technology has broken down or may not be available for some reason. I also think it is more economical and more sensible, to have the reception in an easy to access place, as that benefits everyone.

Overall Thoughts

I think it’s great that companies like Neatebox are trying to develop technology to support blind and visually impaired people as well as disabled people at large, however I don’t think they’re going about it in the right way at the moment. However, seeing as their company objective seems to be developing technology to support disabled people, they might be worth keeping an eye on, because who knows what they’ll come up with in the future, that could have the potential to be really useful. If you want to find out more about Neatebox you can visit their website at:

www.neatebox.com

What do you think of these ideas? Please post your thoughts in the comments and let me know.

 

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