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Tactile Ground Surface Indicators (TGSIs) are tools used in assisting blind or visually- impaired people in navigating through public spaces safely and easily. This is possible through the people identifying the pattern of the TGSIs and/or their colour, as well as other environmental signs and signals. These are all work together to help these visually impaired people to get used to the areas and navigate a path through which they can travel with ease. The places that these TGSIs are most used are areas commonly referred to as “dangerous”. Places like ferry terminals and wharves, train stations, bus stops, rail stops, and depots, are all quite hazardous places for blind people to navigate through. Places like the curbs, stairs, platform edges, and different kinds of obstacles are normally difficult to navigate, and the added crowd and noise will only make it even more difficult. The consequence of making a mistake while moving through this area could prove quite fatal. Helping individuals with visual impairments to move through spaces more efficiently and confidently is very important, and TGSIs do this by providing orientation and alerting them to any potential hazards or obstacles on their path. For people with visual impairments, having luminous pointers on the ground can help in guiding them through the area. And the tactile indicators also work in providing the blind with sensory detection through their feet.


Types of Tactile Indicators

There are two main types of tactile indicators, which are directional tactile and warning tactile.
TGSI’s use stainless steel, plastic, or ceramic finishes, and they basically act as a discrete guidance system. Also, these products come in either individual or mat form varieties.


Directional Tactiles: Directional tactiles are used in guiding visually impaired people through a safe path. With these tactiles, directional pointers are installed as long rectangular strips upon the floor surface. These directional tactiles are regularly used in public transport areas and for street crossings.
Warning Tactiles: Warning tactiles are used in alerting visually impaired individuals of an obstacle or hazard that stands in their way. Things like stairs, steps, escalators, wharves, railways, and ramps use warning tactiles to guard the visually impaired from dangerous obstacles.


Installations in Australia

In Australia, commercial buildings have to maintain compliance with the AS1428.4 standards for disabled access. So Novaproducts only installs premium products from the Tacalert range. This is made up of a range of products that have been manufactured for use in both interior and exterior regions. Novaproducts has installed more than 1000 TacAlert tactiles projects all over Australia. In the collection that is currently available, the tactiles are designed to provide optimum safety while adhering to all the building code requirements. The tactiles are applicable in both interior and exterior applications, and they are very suitable for both new and existing structures. Although, TaAlert PVC tiles offer an alternative option in providing safety precautions for the visually impaired. These tactiles have an oblique edge which means there will be safe installation and use, which will eliminate falls and trips in the areas where they have been installed. There are many different colours available so you can choose your tactiles according to where you want to put them, and the look you want the place to have.


Problems With TGSIs

Providing tactile surfaces for the visually impaired is very essential in affording them easy mobility and good quality of life, and it plays an important role in travel safety. However, as with most things, there are a few problems that could come with TGSI’s. The uneven surfaces could prove problematic to the balance of people that have various musculoskeletal diseases, or people with foot or lower limb deficiencies. Also, incorrectly located blocks, which are warning blocks placed too far away from the obstacles or placed too close to the obstacles, not indicating the start or end of a stairway, as well as placing the blocks incorrectly at the entrance of crosswalks or doors, could be problematic. In several locations in Australia, tactiles have been discovered to be placed incorrectly at the entrances to doors or crosswalks. The tactile ground indicators are a welcome addition to safety procedures used to help people with disabilities, but if the blocks have not been installed correctly, then they can not perform their job of guiding the visually impaired safely, and they could end up putting these people in danger. When the tactile ground indicators are being installed, three factors must always be considered.
1. The tactiles must support the safe movement of visually impaired people.
2. The installations can be easily detected and distinguished by visually impaired people.
3. The installations in place consider people who are mobility impaired like the elderly and wheelchair users.


The Importance of TGSIs

All over the world, improvements are made every day to allow everyone to move and work easily. This applies very much to people with disabilities, and this is why tactile ground surface indicators are essential in today’s world. As we said above, these SGIs create a barrier to safely guide the visually impaired through possibly dangerous areas. And although the safe movement of visually impaired people is important, we must also find an avenue to ensure these safety measures do not impede the movement of mobility impaired individuals. One solution that can be used is to create several different lines of circulation for visually impaired people and wheelchair users, with the Tactile ground surface indicators installed before stairs for the visually impaired and a slope installed for the mobility impaired. Tactile ground surface indicators have been designed to assist people that have impaired vision to recognize their position, the hazardous places in their vicinity, as well as the direction they need to move in. So, they should be installed in safe areas and in a consistent manner that will help the easy identification for the visually impaired through contact with their feet. In Australia, the blocks are installed at rail station platforms, before exterior obstacles and highways, as well as at bus stops and airports. They are very important and useful, and when used properly could be of great assistance to people with visual impairments.