Unreliability of Using the Railing for Stair Information
Blind people can reliably determine when they have reached the floor at the bottom or top of the stairs with proper use of a cane or by using the movement and position of a human or dog guide.
Railings can be used for support and stability, but it is important to know that they do NOT provide reliable information about where the end of the stairway is.
This is illustrated below with photos of railings that end several steps BEFORE the bottom of the stairway.
Blind people who are not using a cane or a guide to navigate these stairs, and who assume that stairs always end when the railing ends, will think they have reached the top or bottom when they actually have several more steps to go (yikes!).
Oral Miller is going down a flight of stairs leading into the lobby of a congressional building in Washington, DC.
The railing ends two steps before the stairs end.
In the first two photos to the right, Randy Pope is descending a concrete stairway that leads from a church in Silver Spring, Maryland into the playground of a nursery school.
The second two photos show a staircase in Gallaudet University that misled Randy Pope. He was using the higher railing (the one that I have my hand on), and it ends 4 steps before the bottom -- yikes!
The railing in the staircase in the first two photos is in the Coliseum in Rome, Italy. It ends 3 steps before the bottom.
The last stairs to the right are at the entrance to a building in Gallaudet University. The railing extends down past the bottom step for about 8 inches, then goes horizontally for about another foot.
These photos show Susan Spicknall descending the stairs in the restaurant where we just had dinner in Baltimore. She laughs while she demonstrates how she'd fall if she hadn't been using her cane and assumed that she had reached the floor when she came to the end of the railing.
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