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Success for Transport for All activist on tactile paving

Added: 30 November 2012 | Updated: 3 December 2012

Mohammed Mohsan Ali, Transport for All trustee and campaign activist, is celebrating his High Court victory against Newham Council for their failure to follow Government guidelines when laying tactile paving.

Mohammed is visually impaired, lives in the borough of Newham and relies on adequate tactile paving to ensure his safety crossing the road. Tactile or “bubble” paving alerts blind and partially sighted people to road crossings. Without it, blind people are put at risk of walking out into a road, without potentially disasterous consequences.

Mohammed is delighted by his success. He said, “It’s been a hard three and a half year’s to reach this point but I’m really happy with the court’s ruling in my favour and hope it acts as a warning to other councils not to deviate from the official guidance on tactile paving.“

The council did not consult with blind and partially sighted residents before implementing the new tactile paving. Mohammed and other RNIB campaign activists found several problems with the paving. Newham chose to install it only at ‘controlled’ crossings (e.g. zebra and pelican crossings) but not at smaller ‘uncontrolled’ crossings, which left blind and (visually impaired) VI people at rick of walking into the road without noticing the road ahead. The council also did not use ‘tails’ which cross the pavement at right angles to the kerb, so that blind and VI people can feel where crossing s are placed, instead of walking past them. In addition, a lack of colour contrast made it much harder to identify safe crossing points. Newham refused to reverse their decision and the tactile paving was approved in July 2010.

The Department for Transport produced National Guidelines on laying tactile paving in conjunction with the expert opinions of both RNIB and Guide Dogs for the Blind. After a hard fought campaign with legal representation from Leigh Day and Co, the court ruled in favour of Mohammed. The judge criticised Newham Council for deviating from the national guidelines. Despite Newham’s attempts to reason that the tactile paving risked causing accidents and difficulties for wheelchair users and prams, Mr Justice Kenneth Parker said there was no good reason for the council’s “substantial departure” from national guidelines formulated “at a high level” by experts in the field.

Transport for All hope Mohammed’s victory will make other Councils to take note and ensure they do stick to the guidelines when laying tactile paving. When streets are well designed, disabled and older people can feel confident to use them and to get out and about independently. Councils need to think about the ‘whole journey approach’- unless we can feel safe to walk or wheel to a bus stop or station, all the accessibility improvements to trains and buses are wasted.