The white cane user and the touchless pedestrian crossing

Using pedestrian crossings can be daunting if you’re vision impaired, even more so when there are changes in how they operate. VisAbility Orientation and Mobility Specialists (O&M) have recently noticed the arrival of more of the touchless pedestrian crossings in Victoria Park and throughout the Metro area. These new crossing controls were introduced off the back of the COVID-19 pandemic and may present challenges to people with low or no vision. 

VisAbility client Ella has been exploring the touchless pedestrian crossing under the guidance of Senior O&M Instructor Hasmukh. He’s guest written this article to explain more.

O&M Instructor Hasmukh talks to Ella at a touchless pedestrian crossing

Touchless pedestrian crossing

More hygienic than alternative push buttons, a touchless pedestrian crossing activates through a wave of the hand over a sensor. It still retains a push button, but the infrared sensor sits alongside.

If you are a white cane user and have low or no vision, you may want to carry on using the push button. However, it’s important you’re aware of the sensor’s existence. This sensor is small in size, round in shape, with a diameter less than a two-dollar coin. You may want to investigate this sensor, so if you have some vision and feel confident, you can use it instead of the push button.

Around its circumference is a red light ring. Once you wave your hand to activate the touchless pedestrian crossing, it will change to green. When the wave has triggered the action, there is audible feedback, although traffic can easily drown this out.

VisAbility client Ella has been exploring the one situated around the corner from VisAbility on Shepperton Road.

A group of people holding white canes stand in the street talking to O&M instructorNight Orientation and Mobility course

It can be challenging for people with low vision to get around in low light situations, and we run an annual six-week Night Orientation and Mobility courses in the winter months, to help people retain confidence and learn how to get around safely.


Pedestrian Priority Zone (PPZ)

Another recent introduction in Australia is Pedestrian Priority Zones, which have arrived off the back of their success in the UK and Europe.

The purpose of its design is to reduce traffic flow and to make the area more pedestrian friendly. It provides more space and amenities for pedestrians and less for vehicles.

In 2021 the City of Perth (link opens in new window) undertook a revitalisation program transforming Hay Street between Pier Street and Irwin Street from a conventional road and footpath structure to a Pedestrian Priority Zone.

It incorporates a broader pavement, 20 km/h speed limit for vehicles and speed humps near road crossing points. There are no traditional road crossing traffic signals in this section. Instead, anyone with vision impairment can identify road crossing points with the help of Tactile Ground Surface Indicators (TGSI’s). Under Pedestrian Priority Zones, pedestrians have the right of way. These changes affect crossing Hay Street between Pier Street and Irwin Street and crossing Irwin Street and Pier Street.

Most local governments have committees to advice on issues that may impact people with disabilities. People with lived experience of low or no vision can participate on these committees.

Guide Dog trainer stands with black labrador in harness by a smart bus stopSmart bus technology

Smart bus stop technology is also being introduced in Perth. Each one has a digital display as well as printed details about timetables and routes.

GPS tracking technology has been installed on buses to show real time arrival information for all services using the stop.

The digital display updates every 15 seconds. It can inform passengers about delays due to congestion or road works.

People with vision impairment can bush a button, outlined in Braille – to have the arrival information read to them.

Eight digital displays have been rolled out in Perth including one in St Georges Terrace.

How to get support

If you want to learn more about using touchless pedestrian crossings, Pedestrian Priority Zones or if you need support to get around safely including route training, please complete the form below to make an initial enquiry about the low vision services and support we can provide.

Our Client Experience Team will contact you to discuss your individual needs both now and into the future.

If you are a provider and wish to refer a client, please use our low vision medical certificate (online referral form) to make your referral.

Please note that fields marked with an asterisk (*) are required.
Are you an existing VisAbility client?
Please tell us your age
Funding sources (if applicable)
Would you like to receive occasional VisAbility news and updates via email?

Privacy Collection Notice

EverAbility Group Ltd is collecting your personal information so we can respond to your enquiry. You can read more about how we deal with your personal information in our Privacy, Dignity and Confidentiality Policy which you can access via the EverAbility website (link opens in new window).