Beijing’s blind blast poorly planned pathways as death traps

Blind say walking on Beijing’s Braille tile pavements is ‘cruising for a bruising’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 August, 2013, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 August, 2013, 8:53am

Due to lax government regulations and crudely-designed Braille tiles, Beijing’s lengthy dimpled passages on pavements for the blind have become merely displays, blind people say.

Beijing has more Braille pavement tiles than any other city in the world, with its tactile paving totalling 1600 kilometres in length. However, blind people told the Beijing Morning Post that the paving is of little benefit to their everyday life, and that walking on the tiles is “cruising for a bruising”.

“Almost no blind person really uses Braille tiles,” said a blind person surnamed Zhao who works in a massage shop staffed by blind people. He told the newspaper that passages for the blind are likely to be blocked by street restaurants and market stalls illegally occupying large chunks of pavement, often without intervention from the authorities. Other segments of pavements can become temporary parking spots where vehicles park illegally across the dimpled tiles.

The report cited an incident where a blind person was violently assaulted by the owner of a luxury car illegally parked on one of these pathways after he accidentally knocked the car with his walking cane.

Zhao added the pavements were sometimes so badly designed that they were almost impossible to walk on.

Last year it was discovered that a 100-metre-long section of a Braille pavement in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, had 56 corners in it, provoking some to brand it “most bizarre Braille tiling”. The local authorities had to quickly retrofit the segment after public pressure urged officials to be more considerate towards blind people. 

Photos have previously emerged in the past of sections of Braille paving interrupted by open manholes, telegraph pole wires sticking out from the side of the pavement and some paving leading directly to trees, inviting public ridicule of the careless planning of the roads. “Would ordinary people walk on dimpled pavements? Probably not. And we don’t for the same reason,” Zhao was quoted as saying.

What can be particularly troubling for blind people is the connection between public facilities and the street, according to the report. Most banks, hospitals, pharmacies lacked a seamless connection between tactile paving in their buildings to that outside on the street, the newspaper found.

Experts also argue Beijing has not built too few pathways, but has actually built too many. Li Weihong, deputy chairman of the China Blind Person’s Association, said certain places that blind people never visit, such as highways, don’t need the pathways. “When do you ever see a blind person walking on highways? They are afraid of them,” the newspaper quoted him saying.

The newspaper also reported other facilities fall short of catering to the disabled population in Beijing,

Many traffic lights, for example, often have a short time between the red and green signals, leaving blind people stranded halfway across the road before vehicles begin to move again.

And while a total of over 67,000 blind people currently live in Beijing, there are only seven registered guide dogs, Li said. Guide dogs along with all other pet dogs are not allowed to travel on public transportation, despite wide-ranging public appeal to make an exception for them.