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Design for low vision, on World Sight day

Today is world sight day, a day of awareness of the challenges facing people with low or impaired vision, and blindness.


The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) has decided to continue using the slogan "#LoveYourEyes" for World Sight Day 2022. The 'Love Your Eyes' campaign urges people to put their personal eye health first while fighting for globally accessible, reasonably priced, and readily available eye care.


Today there are around 2 million people living with sight loss in the UK. Around 1 in 4 of those are unable to work, and the RNIB estimate that by 2050 around 500 people could lose their sight every day, that's one person every three minutes. At Dan Smith Design Studio, we aim to improve the inclusivity of the built environment, experiences and signage to aid people living with a variety of sensory challenges.


When we use the term 'low vision' or 'visual impairment' we are referring to not only people who are Blind, but also people who have high sensitivity to light and glare, people with cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration; and anyone who's vision has been affected by diabetes. We also included people with colour-blindness in this category too.


Today, we're sharing a number of top tips to create an inclusive environment for people with visual impairment:


Colour Contrast


To make spaces easier to navigate for people with low vision, it is important to understand how materials can be used to ensure there is clear visual contrast between key features. We can do this by measuring the Light Reflectance Value (LRV) of each material. This measures how much light is reflected back to a person's eye from the material, and sits on a scale between 1-100.


Key features to consider are:

  • Contrast between wall finishes and the finish of the ceilings, flooring and door openings (British Standards recommend a minimum of 30LRV contrast)

  • Door furniture against door finishes (15LRV)

  • Columns and fixed units against the flooring material (30LRV)

  • Seat pads and table tops against flooring material (30LRV)

  • Counter tops and counter fronts in kitchens, office desks or reception counters (30LRV)

  • Changes in flooring material should not exceed 10LRV, as it may appear as if it is a change in level. Where there is a change in level, such as steps or ramps, or frictional qualities (such as tiles to carpet) then colour contrast is required to identify the change.


Image Credit: Boex


Lighting


No matter how inclusive we design an environment, the lighting is be a crucial element! Exposed bulbs can cause uncomfortable and sometimes painful glare. Frosted bulbs, opal shades or hidden light sources are much more inclusive.


Glossy materials can reflect light, causing more glare and sometimes appears as if wet or slippy. Matt materials and textures reflect less light and are therefore much more suitable for inclusive environments.


Lighting should provide a clear, even glow of light across any space to avoid pools of light and dark - which can be confusing. Bold areas of dark shadow could appear as if they are a change in level and cause a trip hazard.




Wayfinding


Signage is key to help us all navigate the built environment, and the location, size and style of the signage dictates how accessible it is to understand. Where possible, it is best to create signage that uses as many senses as possible, to be inclusive for people with sensory differences.

  • Text and icons should contrast suitably from the background it is against, British Standards recommend a minimum of 70LRV colour contrast. It is also widely regarded that lighter text against a darker background is easier to read for people with low vision.

  • Where text is used, it is helpful to include icons or images to support the information. This is helpful for anyone who cannot read the local language, for someone with cognitive impairment and for those who are neurodivergent.

  • Using a Sans-Serif font is the most accessible for people with low vision, due to the simplified nature of the style.

  • Sentence case format of sentences is more accessible for people to read as, if they cannot make out the individual shapes of the letters, it is easier to make out the overall shape of the word.

  • For low-level signage tactile letters or icons can support people with low vision, as this engages with other senses. Where colour is used (e.g. red/green traffic lights) also consider icons such as a tick or a cross - for those who are colour blind.




Assistive Technology


There are a number of assistive technologies available that can be built into the design of an environment or experience to improve the accessibility for people with visual differences.


NaviLens - uses large scale, colourful QR codes to share information with visually impaired people via their smart phones.


The RoomMate® is an electronic, wall-mounted device, which offers Blind and Visually Impaired visitors bespoke audio description in an accessible toilet. Each unit also comes complete with a high visibility door sign to indicate that the facility has a RoomMate device installed.





Inclusive design support


For further support creating inclusive, immersive experiences for your organisation - get in touch with us to discuss your project!



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