In a bid to help the blind and partially sighted, a new scheme of Street Braille is to be rolled out across the UK after a successful trial in Stockport.
Over the coming weeks, bumps will appear on pavements across Britain's streets informing the blind where it is safe to cross, the type of shop that they are outside and directions to public conveniences. The Braille is placed in ordinary paving slabs, with patterned raised bumps.
"Street Braille is indispensable to the blind," said Clive Sinclair, who invented the new communication device. "As they are walking down the street, they can feel the information through the soles of their feet. It tells them when they are at a pelican crossing, for instance."
During the trial, the project organisers wished to see if the bumps would interfere with other pedestrians using the highways and byways.
"There were some issues with wheeled vehicles, such as prams, mobility scooters and children on scooters," said Sinclair. "Especially the children on scooters. They fell off. But as this is hilarious, we didn't see it as a problem."
Additionally the Sinclair C5 would not travel over the bumps. However, as it can also not traverse speed humps, pavements or a little loose leaf litter, it was discounted from the study.
The signs outside shops have proven particularly useful.
"Many is the time a blind person has accidentally gone into the butchers instead of the hairdressers," said Sinclair. "In the past, it was up to the butcher to set them straight or cut their hair. Now, the blind person can know which shop they are outside, with some shops even including their names in the Braille."
Other pedestrians have applauded the idea, as long as it doesn't completely take over the pavements.
"It makes the pavement a little uneven to walk on," said One Leg Len of Rochdale.
Although the study has been roundly applauded for improving equality between the sighted and the unsighted, nobody had thought to ask what the blind thought of the new scheme.
"It's bloody useless," said David Blunkett, former blind Labour MP. "I wear bloody shoes, don't I? How am I supposed to feel the bumps through them? What do they expect me to do? Walk in bare feet? That'd be suicidal. Haven't they realised I've got a dog? I could be standing in anything."