Here’s how people who are blind can navigate the Dutch train system

Have you ever wondered how it must feel to navigate the humdrum of a Dutch train station as a person who is blind? Us too! So we decided to do what we do best when we have a question about life in the Netherlands — we wrote an article about it.

Many Dutch train stations are actually quite well equipped for a traveller who has a vision impairment. The great irony is that those of us with sight don’t really see these measures.

In an explanatory video for the BBC, Kees Greven highlights the many helpful tools that Dutch train stations offer to partially sighted or people who are blind, such as himself. “It’s really quite easy to find your way,” he says “I feel pretty comfortable travelling around.”

Easy preparation

Dutch train stations have factored in every step of a person with blindeness’ journey — beginning with how they can plan it. Kees explains that before you hit the road, it is possible to look up a description of how to make it to a certain platform in your chosen station. Travellers can then download an MP3 file of the description and listen to it on their way.

At the most used stations in the Netherlands, travellers who are partially or fully blind can even ask the service desks for tactile maps of the station’s layout.

Guiding strips

Perhaps the most noticeable is the guiding strips. If you’ve ever walked through a Dutch train station you may have noticed that there are ridged tiles that run in straight lines along the floor.

Those with partial or no sight can run their canes along these strips to feel their way through stations and to their platforms. If you’re trying to remember whether your local station has these strips, they likely do. In fact, Kees points out that over 400 stations in the Netherlands have laid out a whopping 90 km of guiding strips for those with sight impediments.

Some stations even have sound tiles near service stations and check-in barriers. These make a different sound when you tap them with your foot or cane to the regular flooring.

Braille on the rails

And how can you tell which platform is which? Many of us likely haven’t noticed, but stations are now starting to place braille on the rails that lead up/down to the various platforms. A blind person can place their hand on the railing and tell whether or not they are heading to the right platform — so clever!

Still some setbacks

However, not everything is perfect. Take for example the OV top-up stations. While braille is used to indicate where someone can place their OV chip card, there’s not much they can do when it comes to using the touchscreen.

Setbacks aside, Dutch train stations do more than meets the eye when it comes to taking care of their blind passengers. Kees points this out, saying “it’s good that you don’t have to hold onto someone for every minor step in your journey.”

What are your thoughts on Dutch train stations and their efforts when it comes to accommodating blind people? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

Feature Image: Zlikovec/Depositphotos

Sarah O'Leary 🇮🇪
Sarah O'Leary 🇮🇪
Sarah originally arrived in the Netherlands due to an inability to make her own decisions — she was simply told by her mother to choose the Netherlands for Erasmus. Life here has been challenging (have you heard the language) but brilliant for Sarah, and she loves to write about it. When Sarah is not acting as a safety threat to herself and others (cycling), you can find her sitting in a corner of Leiden with a coffee, trying to sound witty.

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