Did you know that on just about every street in the United Kingdom there is a “secret” little button at pedestrian crossings to help people who are visually impaired; either blind or even colour blind and just simply cannot see the lights or the colour of the lights. The idea was taken to the Department of Transport in the 1980’s, but it wasn’t until 1989 that started to use them and actually put into the yellow crossing boxes.
What does it feel like?
It is a small metal or plastic cone (like a very tiny road cone) which can be found on the underside of the yellow box at the pedestrian crossing. People with visual impairments can feel for the cone instead of pressing the button.
How does it help visually impaired people?
This handy device not only helps people who are visually impaired or blind it also helps deaf and or people who are hard of hearing. They can hold their hand over it and when the tiny cone starts spinning, it means to them that the green man is showing and they can cross the lights. This enables blind and/or visually impaired people to be able to cross independently without having to ask someone if the green light is showing because sometimes visually impaired people are also deaf and sometimes the lights don’t always “beep” when the green man is showing that it is safe for them to cross. This is another way of ensuring blind, visually impaired and deaf people that they can cross the road safely.
Do all crossings in the UK have them?
Unfortunately, not all of the boxes at crossings have them, and they aren’t automatically built into new boxes constructed, even today. They are fitted afterwards by Radix, the company behind the cones, who say they have sold approximately 10,000 units per year since 1995. This means that the majority of units in the United Kingdom today have a cone built in. Try for yourself to see if there is one at the next pedestrian crossing you happen to be at. Blind and visually impaired people say they don’t just rely on a “spinning cone” to tell them cross the road. The senses of people with impairments and disabilities are usually heightened so they will rely on their other senses as well to tell them whether to cross the road, though. For example, someone who is visually impaired would probably feel for the spinning cone and listen carefully to hear if everyone else was crossing and if the traffic noises had stopped.