Wayfinding for the Visually Impaired

Wayfinding for the Visually Impaired

What is wayfinding?

Wayfinding is “the process or activity of ascertaining one’s position and planning and following a route”. It is how people orient and navigate themselves from place to place.

It can be an incredibly daunting and dangerous experience for the blind and otherwise visually impaired to navigate their way through unfamiliar places without the visual cues such as street signs and crosswalk lights that most other seeing people take for granted. Wayfinding presents a significant challenge to people who are unable to see. Direction is only one of the problems. They are more prone to falls and other injuries due to their inability to see hazards such as drop-offs and sidewalk damage. There are many new high-tech wayfinding applications available to the visually impaired, but tactile surfaces continue to be the leading, most familiar, and required solutions for wayfinding. Some of the more common tactile systems include the following:

Braille and Tactile Letters

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public organizations and facilities to provide equal access to the disabled which includes the visually impaired. Printing and signage companies incorporate braille and tactile letters on room and floor identification signs, door numbers, and all other wayfinding signs for theaters, hotels, restaurants, libraries, and more to install. There are very strict and specific ADA guidelines about size and placement of the braille and tactile sign information to create some familiarity and consistency in wayfinding for the visually impaired.

Detectable Warning Surfaces

The ADA also enforces the installation of detectable warning tiles and other surfaces that include a distinctive pattern of truncated domes aligned in a square or radial grid pattern. This pattern is a standard and detectable by cane or underfoot to alert the visually impaired of street crossings, drop-offs, and other trip hazards. You will find these at curb ramps, transit stations, walkways and more. Refer to the United States Access Board for a list of requirements and uses related to public rights-of-way.

Directional Wayfinding

Wayfinding bars and domes are safe and easy to follow for the visually impaired. Advantage Tactile System engineers a directional wayfinding system that consists of metal domes and bars that are drilled and adhered into the ground to provide directional guidance for the visually impaired. Robin Steel was contracted to provide and install a stainless-steel Advantage system at the University of North Texas at Dallas, and we will perform a similar installation for Texas A & M University at College Station. These universities are trailblazers in providing equal accessibility and safe mobility for their visually impaired students. We hope that more companies will follow suit to create safe and worry-free wayfinding and mobility for everyone regardless of our abilities.

By Melethia at RS


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