Helping the Visually Impaired

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Helping the Visually Impaired

The chances are, at some point in your life, you have either tripped up a step you didn’t see or experienced that bone-jarring jolt you get when stepping down a step you didn’t expect. Under most circumstances (bad knees aside), once you know steps are there, they become much easier to navigate – up or down.  It’s the ones that sneak up on us that cause the problem.

If you’re reading this blog, you probably don’t have serious eyesight issues, but many people do – whether they’re born visually impaired or lose their sight from age, illness or accident. It’s no surprise then that extensive research has been undertaken to work out the best way of alerting everyone to approaching steps and stairs.

The solution isn’t difficult or even particularly surprising; it’s all to do with contrast.  If the edge of the step is significantly lighter or darker than the tread and the riser, it is less likely to be missed.  It’s not about colour – in poor light colours all become shades of grey – it about the difference in Light Reflectance Value. LRV ranges from 0 (think matt black) to 100 (gloss white).  Dark, matt or textured surfaces reflect less light than smooth, shiny, light ones.  It is recommended that there be at least a 30 point difference between the step and the edge.

The poorer your eyesight, the more contrast you need to be able to see the edge of a step.

QuartzGrip’s Stair Edges offer a superb anti-slip surface ideal for reducing people from slipping on the edge of a step because it’s worn, wet or icy. But, just as importantly, they offer the opportunity to create a visual contrast that can be seen going up or down the stairs. Wrapping around the front of each step the nosing clearly outlines where each step is – invaluable if light or eyes are dim. They are stocked in a range of colours to suit light or dark steps and there’s even a luminous version if lighting is a problem.

If the location is suitable, adding a band of Tactile Floor Tiles on the approach to the top and bottom of each flight of stairs gives a physical alert.  The corduroy hazard warning surface is internationally recognised as an alert to approaching stairs.

The value of a sturdy handrail and adequate lighting should never be overlooked when it comes to stairs. Falling over just one step is dangerous enough, going down a whole flight can cause serious injury. Anything you can do on your steps to improve safety for everyone is worth the investment.

For advice on improving safety on your stairs visit or call 0800 6123 515.