Visual accessibility of ramps and steps

Gordon E. Legge, Deyue Yu, Christopher S. Kallie, Tiana M. Bochsler, Rachel Gage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The visual accessibility of a space refers to the effectiveness with which vision can be used to travel safely through the space. For people with low vision, the detection of steps and ramps is an important component of visual accessibility. We used ramps and steps as visual targets to examine the interacting effects of lighting, object geometry, contrast, viewing distance, and spatial resolution. Wooden staging was used to construct a sidewalk with transitions to ramps or steps. Fortyeight normally sighted subjects viewed the sidewalk monocularly through acuity-reducing goggles and made recognition judgments about the presence of the ramps or steps. The effects of variation in lighting were milder than expected. Performance declined for the largest viewing distance but exhibited a surprising reversal for nearer viewing. Of relevance to pedestrian safety, the step up was more visible than the step down. We developed a probabilistic cue model to explain the pattern of target confusions. Cues determined by discontinuities in the edge contours of the sidewalk at the transition to the targets were vulnerable to changes in viewing conditions. Cues associated with the height in the picture plane of the targets were more robust.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of vision
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2010


  • Low vision
  • Mobility
  • Ramps
  • Steps
  • Visual accessibility
  • Visual acuity
  • Visual contrast
  • Visual recognition


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