ABOUT OUR GUIDES

DESCRIBE ONLINE

Introduction

We live with the frustration of not knowing, or being able to find out, how to accomplish tasks which many of us take for granted. We get off a bus, train or taxi in an unfamiliar place and have no idea what to do next - which direction to go, where to find help or what facilities are available within metres. This is simply because, as totally blind people, the information we need is not available to us.

By publishing our guides we empower people to participate in everyday activities from which they might otherwise be excluded. Our conversations with people, blind and sighted alike, confirm our belief that there is clearly no substitute for a thorough understanding of one's surroundings. Not only could this enable people to travel independently if they choose but also give a great sense of empowerment to individuals who, although receiving assistance, still know where they're going and how to get there.

On many occasions, we find ourselves guiding sighted people who are unfamiliar with a route. They clearly prefer someone who knows what they're doing to navigate for them rather than rely on signage which, by its very nature, pre-supposes an extensive knowledge of one's whereabouts and destination.

Our policy is to provide as much information as practicable in a structured way which enables readers to extract what they need, in advance, either from the Internet or other media.

We all feel a great sense of empowerment and confidence when we know where we are, can make informed choices of where we can go and the opportunities and facilities available to us. We also benefit greatly from making informed choices about what, if any assistance we need and that we need assistance to overcome practical difficulties in achieving our aims rather than having to obtain help to set these objectives in the first place. This situation is all too prevalent and continues to undermine us.

There is clearly no substitute for information in advance. Many organisations provide maps and diagrams showing routes to and around their premises. Whilst these can be reproduced, to some extent, in tactile form for use by blind people, it is often difficult to convey all the relevant information in a concise and accessible form. furthermore, the potential cost and inconvenience of updating such materials in the light of changes to a building and its facilities makes it unlikely that the information will remain up-to-date.

We believe that inaccurate information can be worse than none at all.

The alternative is to produce a text guide. In doing this we make the information available to blind and sighted alike in a form which can be amended quickly and cheaply as necessary. The arrival of the Internet has made this even easier as information can be updated and disseminated to all who can benefit from it within minutes.

Our Guides

Our guides to London Underground and National Rail stations have a front page naming the station and linking to maps of the lines it serves. Links are also provided to the following sections.

ENVIRONS

This section describes the location of the station, how it can be reached via public transport and directs readers to other important features such as taxi offices, bus stops and road crossings.

FACILITIES

A list of the facilities, over and above those essential to a station, eg. the toilets, phones and vending machines. Each facility is listed, allowing the reader to access more information about that facility and where it's located.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION

A brief description of the station including the layout of the building, number and direction of platforms and other information which may be important to you when deciding whether to use this station. In particular, we would tell you whether there is stairs only or step-free access, or whether it is easier to change lines at this station or another one nearby.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

A very detailed guide to the station, stating

We have found many stations in which apparently equivalent flights of stairs don't have the same number of steps. This can be a useful landmark.

HOW DO I…?

This section gives concise instructions on how to find platforms from the entrance, exits from platforms and how to change platforms within the station. Details of how to locate taxis and buses are sometimes included here where the information in the ENVIRONS section isn't thought sufficient.

>A QUESTION FOR YOU ALL…

When is a wall not a wall?

Answer: when it's a pillar.

In describing bounded spaces we need to distinguish the boundaries so as to avoid ambiguity. In so doing we refer to the wall or side of an enclosed space according to the direction in which you would walk to go through it.

On the outside of a bounded area, of which a pillar is a particular example, we name the sides according to the direction in which you would walk away from it.

We think this makes a lot of sense - do you agree?

We continually strive to improve the quality and usability of the information we provide. If you have any suggestions for improvement, please email

info@describe-online.com

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© 2003 Terry Robinson