Mobility safety and experiences of blind and low vision pedestrians in Victoria Australia
In Australia, approximately 300,000 individuals are blind or experience low vision, with this figure predicted to double by 2020. One of the major challenges for this population group is the ability to maintain independence, commonly measured in the context of mobility. For these individuals, travelling from one destination to another can be difficult. This has led road safety organisations to consider development of road environments that provide for the needs of pedestrians with vision impairment. First however, a better understanding of their mobility patterns is necessary. The present paper presents findings from a two-part study aimed at investigating the issues surrounding the safety and mobility experiences of pedestrians who have vision impairment. The first component entailed a telephone survey of 607 adults who were either blind or experience low vision. The second component entailed two focus group sessions completed with a total of 22 orientation and mobility (O&M) instructors. Findings were discussed in the context of travel patterns, interactions with road and pedestrian infrastructure systems, strategies utilised, as well as collision involvement. O&M training was a particular focus of this paper given the limited research, yet expected benefits associated with mobility and overall safety for pedestrians with vision impairment. Findings from the study suggest that positive experiences along with skill development related to independent travel are perceived outcomes for participants who take part in O&M programs. However, such programs will likely benefit from advancing research in the field. In summary, pedestrians who are blind or experience low vision have a complex pattern of interaction with the road environment that will likely benefit from a combination of enhanced road infrastructure and technologies, complemented by O&M training.