Guardrails and plenty of clear, visible signage work just fine for indicating changes to pedestrian routes in busy construction zones – unless the pedestrians have limited eyesight. The team constructing the Northwest Extension light rail project in Phoenix decided to go beyond the usual approach to pedestrian safety when they found out there were visually impaired residents living along the 3.2-mile route.


Several members of the project team took a class that gave them an overview of the newest guidelines pertaining to cane-able rails (guides for people using canes), and then they hit the streets using canes and wearing black-out glasses. While one person tried to navigate the temporary walkway without relying on visual cues, the others studied that person’s movements to get a better understanding of the difficulties.


“It was really hard to figure out where to go; we learned a lot from the experience,” explained one of the team members. “The canable rail provides very important cues. Wherever it’s pointing is where the person relying on it is going to try to go. If you just have a “sidewalk closed” sign with an arrow pointing right or left, you’ve basically created nothing but a tripping hazard for the visually impaired. You have to have the rail positioned at just the right angle for them. There’s more to think through than most people realize. The investment in training was well worth it. We ended up with a much safer project, thanks to the guidelines and our real-world training exercise.”


Valley Metro Light Rail, Inc.


Metro Light Rail Transit Northwest Extension