Tactile signs open up Sydney for the visually impaired

Sydney is a fabulous city - attractive, busy, diverse and a great mix of sophisticated urbanity and beachy casual. It’s a bucket list destination, and anyone who can make it down to the South Pacific corner of the world should not miss out on experiencing the hustle and bustle of this worldly and bold metropolis. The super efficient airport is a bonus for travelers.
sydney at dusk

Sydney for everyone

The city’s council is about to make Sydney accessible to many more people. A network of tactile street signs had been developed through consultation with Vision Australia and Guide Dogs NSW/ACT - this will be rolled out over the coming weeks and months.
Braille and raised, enlarged letters will be combined in the signs for optimised ease of use, and they will be installed at every signalised pedestrian crossing throughout the city for a network of braille and tactile signs more comprehensive than any other in Australia. The signage for visually impaired pedestrians is combined with maps, information and digital technology as part of the Legible Sydney Wayfinding System.
The signs will specify street names and building numbers to allow visually impaired and blind people to instantly identify where they are. Michael Simpson, General Manager of Client Services at Vision Australia, said of the tactile signs in a City of Sydney press release: “As someone who is blind, being able to easily identify my location in an unfamiliar environment gives me increased confidence to travel independently. With clear and consistent information, I am very hopeful that these wayfinding signs will help to improve access for thousands of Sydneysiders and visitors to our city.”

Sightseeing for the visually impaired

Making blind residents and visitors feel comfortable and confident is a priority for many places, people and companies around the globe. 
The American Foundation for the Blind has listed Charlotte, North Carolina as the most liveable city for the visually impaired, citing infrastructure such as good public transport, audible and vibro-tactile traffic signals, walkability and awareness as reasons that all can travel with ease. New Zealand’s pedestrian crossings combine visual and audio cues, in Europe the “traveleyes” tour group can match blind travelers with sighted travelling companions willing to describe what their eyes can see, and Microsoft is designing a headset that can talk people around cities, tested in the UK.
Sydney’s innovative new wayfinder system should put it right up there with the most accessible cities, and is great news for keen travelers with vision impairments who have put Australia on their list of must-”see” places.

Get there

If you have a visually impaired friend or family member who has always wanted to experience Sydney, now is the time to go! Fly into Sydney Airport, pick up a car rental and you’re on your way to a fantastic holiday.
Once tired of finding your way around Sydney’s stunning CBD with the wayfinder system, here are a few attractions nearby which don’t require perfect vision to enjoy:
Featherdale Wildlife Park in Doonside, amongst Sydney’s western suburbs and 40 minutes from the city centre, allows visitors to get up close and personal with the incredible and unique Australian wildlife. A zoo doesn’t offer much to a blind observer, but here you can cuddle a koala, feed a kangaroo, stroke a snake and participate in more hands-on encounters.
New South Wales’ food and wine scene requires only taste buds. Strewn across Sydney and the surrounds are fantastic restaurants (try the fabulous Biota, 90 minutes south of Sydney), microbreweries (perhaps you could time your visit to coincide with Sydney Craft Beer Week in October) and farmers markets to satisfy the most discerning foodie. Wine lovers must not leave without a visit to the famous Hunter Valley wine region, just a few hours to the north.
hunter valley
The Blue Mountains National Park is less than two hours’ drive inland, and offers an easy opportunity to get amongst Australia’s beautiful nature. The sights are amazing, but so are the scents of fresh air and the blue haze-producing eucalyptus trees, the sounds of native birds and wildlife and the feel of mountains beneath your feet, cold alpine streams and wide open spaces.
Are you visually impaired or have travelled with someone who is? We would love to hear in the comments your tips for getting around, favourite destinations and ideas for things to do that don’t require sight to enjoy.

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