"IntroductionThe purpose of this PhD research is to examine street environments and more specifically the pavement, which pedestrians walk upon. The investigation focuses on accessibility requirements relating to the needs and experiences of visually impaired pedestrians. The central aim is to understand how visually impaired people use tactile pavement and to define tactile pavement's relationship with other mobility and navigation systems. The research objective is to investigate, analyse and compare, manufacturers', implementers' and users' awareness and understanding of tactile pavement, within the UK. Background In 1986 the first tactile pavement was implemented in UK, to signify controlled road crossings and initially it had the legal status of a road sign. However, due to widespread trends for dropped kerbs (to increase wheelchair users opportunity for crossing roads), tactile pavement use was extended. In an effort to distinguish between tactile pavement at uncontrolled and controlled crossings, it was produced in contrasting red and buff colours. This caused much confusion for town planners and in 1991 tactile pavement lost its legal status. Officials thought, that it could not be practically upheld, due to the increased variety in tactile pavement surfaces. Expansion of usage has continued and there are now seven different types of tactile surface used in the UK: 1.Blister surface for pedestrian crossing points 2.Corduroy hazard warning surface 3.Platform (off street) warning edge surface 4.Platform (on street) warning edge surface 5.Guidance path surface 6.Information surface 7.Segregated shared cycle track/footway surface with central delineator strip. Despite the loss of legal status, the UK government appears keen to support standardized usage of tactile pavement. In 1998 the Department for Transport produced guidelines: "Guidance on the Use of Tactile Paving Surfaces", to assist streetscape designers and town planners in their work. Research Hypotheses Hypothesis 1: Many visually impaired people are not fully aware of the different meanings of the tactile surfaces. Hypothesis 2: Many visually impaired people have not received detailed mobility training about how to use tactile pavement systems. Hypothesis 3: Visually impaired people, who are aware of tactile pavement and use or have previously used it as a mobility cue; cease to rely on it, if they experience too many examples of inconsistent, incorrect and misleading tactile pavement installations. Hypothesis 4: Designers, town planners and other professionals, who are responsible for installing and maintaining pavement, are not fully aware of and do not consistently follow government guidelines relating to tactile pavement use. Research Methodology For this study a qualitative data collection method; individual interviews, was selected. Interviewing was chosen, because more quantitative survey methods, such as printed postal questionnaires, could have caused problems for many visually impaired respondents, who may not use print as their preferred reading method. To gather visually impaired interview respondents, volunteers were requested from local visually impaired peoples' organisations. This was an ethical method of contacting potential interviewees and did not break the UK Data Protection Act. However, it had the possible disadvantage of not reaching and including the least independent and mobile visually impaired people. Due to time and financial constraints, it was not feasible to extend the interviewee sample to cover the whole of the UK. Therefore the research is a comparison study of the cities Glasgow and Birmingham. Progress to Date This PhD project started in 2002 and is currently in the data collection stage. Initial findings indicate that visually impaired pedestrians do not know how to interpret all of the tactile surfaces used within the UK. This seems to be less of an issue with surfaces that have been installed over a longer time period, such as the red "blister" pavement used to indicate road crossing points. Yet for newer types of tactile surface, such as the "lozenge" surface for on-street platform edges, there appears to be a lack of awareness of their existence and confusion regarding their correct interpretation. One can anticipate that this lack of recognition may be less of a problem in future, when these surfaces are more established and when more people have received training about how to use them. Conclusion The central issues of this study are understanding and communication. The research aims to provide useful information about how visually impaired pedestrians use and learn how to use tactile surfaces. Furthermore it attempts to assess user awareness amongst those involved in the planning and implementation of tactile pavement systems. It is anticipated that the PhD thesis will be submitted in 2005."