Walking strategies of visually impaired people on trapezoidal- and sinusoidal-section tactile groundsurface indicators

Ergonomics. 2011 Mar;54(3):246-56. doi: 10.1080/00140139.2010.548533.


The visual system in walking serves to perceive feedback or feed-forward signals. Therefore, visually impaired persons (VIP) have biased motor control mechanisms. The use of leading indicators (LIs) and long canes helps to improve their walking efficiency. The aims of this study were to compare the walking efficiency of VIP on trapezoidal- and sinusoidal-section LIs using an optoelectronic motion analysis system. VIP displayed a significantly longer stance phase, a shorter swing phase and shorter step and stride lengths when they walked on the sinusoidal LI than when they walked on the trapezoidal LI. Compared with the trapezoidal LI, VIP walking on the sinusoidal LI displayed significantly lower joint ranges of motion. The centre of mass lateral displacement was wider for VIP walking on the sinusoidal LI than on the trapezoidal LI. Some significant differences were also found in sighted persons walking on both LIs. In conclusion, the trapezoidal shape enabled visually impaired subjects to walk more efficiently, whereas the sinusoidal shape caused dynamic balance problems. STATEMENT OF RELEVANCE: These findings suggest that VIP can walk more efficiently, with a lower risk of falls, on trapezoidal-section than on sinusoidal-section LIs. These results should be considered when choosing the most appropriate ground tactile surface indicators for widespread use.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Canes
  • Cues
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Touch / physiology*
  • Visually Impaired Persons*
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Young Adult