AQ’s independent research early findings suggest tactiles are being over prescribed at the taxpayers expense and are underutilised by the visually impaired. In economic modeling, current estimates of annual global investment in Tactiles is just under 1 billion AUD with Australia and New Zealand leading the way with the most pervasive regulation for building installations and investment followed by Japan and the UK.
Tactile Ground Surface Indicators are the penny sized lumps and bumps you see at stairs, platforms and intersection and are designed to give both visual and tactile feedback to visually impaired users.
A survey of our Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane offices found that of all projects, Melbourne architects are more likely to install individual or discrete type tactiles compared to Sydney where tiles are prefered.
Melbourne street designers show a preference for discrete tactiles and Melbourne City Council records the most expensive installations with discrete granite routed units set into bluestone pavers.
An estimate of costs for one stair set with indicators top and bottom is approximately 2K, rising to about 10 – 15K for one Melbourne intersection with 8 crossing points. The cost to supply and install a venue such as a state level tennis or football venue in Victoria is about 60K.
Our estimate for the rate of persons in Melbourne using white canes per million of population is about 15 persons and approximately 10% of those show a proficiency for detecting and using tactile infrastructure for orientation and mobility. The average capital city council outlay on installing and maintaining tactiles to service the visually impaired community is about 250K, not including private sector and other public sector utilities such as state rail.
Figures from our Sydney office find that approximately 40% of installations show evidence of over prescription or installed where they are either not required or not necessary. Melbourne is a close second followed by Canberra and Brisbane. Adelaide and Perth were outliers for reason their installations show regional variations to the standard.
In surveying our clients on what they thought tactiles did, respondents typically didn’t know, were unaware or believed them to be braille and that a message could be divined when a blind person parses. Its interesting that when the same question was asked to visually impaired person the responses were not materially different with few aware of the benefits proposed by advocates and in prior research.
Of interest to researches is that when presented with alternative hazard warning technology and risk reduction measures to reduce or eliminate tactile installations, clients were often unsure, reticent, required additional support and sometimes borderline emotional counseling.
Further research is suggested to identify whether this reluctance to change is perhaps indicative of pressure from regulators, the regulation itself or perhaps the influence of indirect factors such as conflict within the regulation, a poor or changing understanding and interpretations around the initial intent of regulation.
The research document review stage identified statistically significant gaps in prior research, particularly the lack of statistically representative control and placebos populations in clinical trials and the lack of new research data indicated global deficiency in the underlying logic to regulate.
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