In this section
Short flights of stairs that are straight rather than curving, and which have wide steps seem to be the preferred option as they allow vision impaired people to assume control about how they move.
Not all guide dogs are trained to use escalators. Users of dogs which are not trained, as well as some other vision impaired people will prefer to use fixed stairways (but not spiral stairs). For most vision impaired people having a handrail to hold on to is vital so that they are able tomaintain their balance. Some guide dogs have been trained to target the handrail on the right.
When going up the stairs, long cane users hold the cane vertically against the riser of the next tread. In this way they detect the steps as they go and can identify when they have reached the landing or top of the stairs. Similarly, when going down stairs long cane users hold the cane against the edge of the second next step so that they can sense where the steps end.
5.1 Announcing direction of travel of stairs
It is helpful to announce if the stairs are going up or down to assist vision impaired people in creating a mental map of their environment. For example:
Turn left and take the stairs down to the ticket hall.
Walk forward and take the stairs up to the main concourse.
5.2 Describing the number of steps
Describing the number of steps enables vision impaired people to move forward with confidence. However, only give the number if it is a short flight of 12 steps or fewer. Counting steps on longer flights can be a distraction for vision impaired people, particularly in busy environments. For example:
Walk forward and take the stairs down to the ticket hall. There are nine steps.
Walk forward and take the stairs down to the ticket hall. This is a long flight.
5.3 Announcing if there is more than one flight of stairs
Vision impaired people will use their primary mobility aid to indicate when they have reached a landing and top/bottom of stairs. However, an audio instruction will also be useful. There are various ways to communicate this, such as “landing between” or “break between” with a preference for the latter. For example:
Walk forward and take the stairs down to the ticket hall. This is a long flight with a landing at the mid-point.
In the case direction changes at the landing point, inform vision impaired people about this direction change. For example:
At the landing turn right for the next part of the flight.
5.4 Indicating next move while using stairs
As with Escalators (Section 4.1.4) and Ticket control (Section 4.1.7) vision impaired people need to prepare for what they will do once they leave the stairs. It is recommended to leave a pause between groups of instructions particularly if the instructions are lengthy. For example:
Walk forward and take the stairs down to the ticket hall. This is a long flight with a landing at the midpoint. (Pause) At the bottom of the stairs, walk forward.
Suggestions for further investigation
The following paragraphs are not guidelines but suggested areas for future investigation through user research.
s5.1 Advising which side of stairs to use
As with Escalators (Section 4.1.4), on some staircases users will be advised to use one part of the stairs, i.e. either the left or the right. Vision impaired people need to be guided towards that side of the stairs. Suggested example:
Walk forward and take the stairs up to the ticket hall. This is a long flight. Keep to the left side of the staircase.
s5.2 Announcing open riser stairs
Open riser staircases present particular challenges for vision impaired people. For example, there is a danger for their white cane or their feet to get caught in the open riser staircase. In such situations, it may be helpful to include notice of that detail in the audio instruction. Suggested example:
Walk forward and take the stairs up to the ticket hall. This is an open riser staircase.