How Do Detectable Warning Surfaces Help Visually Impaired Pedestrians?

detectable warning device

Detectable warning surfaces act as a stop sign for visually impaired perdestrians at intersections and other busy pedestrian foot traffic areas. There are different types and colors of these warning surfaces one can encounter in their city.

The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) does not specify a specific color when using tactile warning surfaces, although the most commonly used color is yellow. The only stipulation is that it must be of a contrasting color compared to the surrounding surface. For instance, if the sidewalk is your normal cement gray, then any color—blue, red, black, and so on—could be used except for gray and possibly white if the cement is a light color.

Raised domes are easily detectable with  a cane both in feel and sound or by the change in the surface as felt under foot. The contrasting color of the surface further helps people who have poor vision. They are often able to distinguish between changes in colors, even though they may not be able to see clearly.

Types of Detectable Warning Surfaces

The type and placement of the tactile warning surfaces do mean different things for the visually impaired as follows:

  • Truncated domes—the round raised circles—indicate that a visually impaired person is entering an area where there is a crossing. The crossing could be a busy intersection, bike path, jogging trail, or another heavy foot traffic area. The domes mean the person should stop before proceeding, to determine whether it is safe to cross.
  • The use of way finding tactile surfaces with elongated raised lines and ridges in between are starting to be used in various cities to create safe visually impaired walking lanes. The ridges make it easy for a visually impaired person with a cane to “feel” the ground and know they are walking in a safe area.
  • Photoluminescent warning surfaces with illuminated dots are also becoming more common in various cities. The use of these types of tiles help all people because in low light conditions they illuminate  and provide a pathway to safety in the event of a power failure.

glow dome photoluminescent systems

Places Where Detectable Warning Surfaces Should Be Used

The ADA has specific guidelines about the placement, size, and type of ADA detectable warning surfaces used in public areas. In 2010, the ADA relaxed its location requirements, but this does not mean businesses and communities cannot still be proactive in creating safe walking areas for visually impaired people. As of 2010, the warning surfaces are only required on the edges of transit platforms and wheelchair ramps in the public rights-of-way like intersections.

The previous requirements also required warning surfaces around the edges of reflecting pools and in front of doors leading to hazardous vehicular areas like parking lots. This is why you might notice tactile warning surfaces still being installed in these locations.

For municipalities and businesses which are not sure whether they should install tactile warning surfaces, it is highly recommended to speak to a supplier of detectable warning surfaces like those of us at ADA Solutions. We can help you determine what would be best for your city or business, as well as for the visually impaired people who deserve safer walking areas.

For further information, to request a free sample, or to learn more about our tactile warning surface products, please feel free to call us at (800) 372-0519 today!