Many people who have impaired vision have some residual vision - some are able to read print signage, however many are not. It is necessary, therefore, to provide alternatives to ensure effective communication. These may include tactile symbols, verbal announcements or one-on-one assistance for locating a specific location.
Some examples of providing printed information in alternate formats include:
- Train arrival/departure/destination information provided in both print and audio formats
- Audio-tactile traffic signals
- A person seeking assistance from a help point or from another person.
Signage currently falls into two basic categories for people with vision impairment. Print signs that are useful for people with residual vision and tactile and Braille signs that are useful for people unable to read print.
So how do you choose the correct sign? The following factors might assist your choice.
- Tactile and Braille
- Font/Writing Style
- Tactile and Braille Signage
Tactile signs consist of raised shapes, for example the raised shape of a woman on a toilet door. As not all people with vision impairment read Braille, it is important to provide both Braille and tactile signage. Braille uses raised writing in the form of a cell of 6 dots which is read by touch. Different combinations of raised dots within a cell signify different letters, abbreviations and words.
A sign's readability is highly affected by its font and print case. Though there are currently no standards for print type, Blind Citizens Australia currently recommends the use of Sans Serif font types.
Simple lettering, distinctive logos and symbols can help convey information effectively where print may be difficult to use e.g. male and female symbols for toilets are instantly recognisable. Many symbols are internationally recognised, such as the wheelchair sign to indicate facilities for people with a disability.
Low contrast signage can be difficult to locate and read clearly. Printed information should contrast with the sign's background surface. See more on Luminance Contrast.
Signs should be positioned so that they are clearly visible from both seated and standing positions.
When positioning signage, important considerations include:
- Distance at which a person with vision impairment must stand to see the sign
- Length of time required to read the sign by a person with vision impairment
- Consistent placement of signs
- Placement of overhead signs at least 2000mm above the ground level but preferably 2400mm above the ground level (Guide to Traffic Engineering Practice, Part 13)
As a practical example, consider signage outside a room. Signage is best placed on the wall beside the door in a position where a person with vision impairment can read it without blocking the path of other pedestrians. Within a building, all signs should be placed in the same position and at the same height beside each door where information is required.
Lighting of signs
When positioning and lighting signage, important considerations include:
- Direct and indirect lighting levels throughout the day e.g. afternoon sun may cause glare, making signage unreadable
- Readability in both natural and artificial light
- Use of non-reflective materials for signage and viewing background
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