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Careful use of colour and tonal contrast can help visually impaired people
use buildings while maintaining aesthetic appeal. Visually impaired people make
use of tonal contrast to identify features and navigate around buildings.
Large surfaces, such as floors, walls and ceilings, should be colourdifferentiated
from each other, to give correct clues to space and proximity. The colours used
for trims should maintain or enhance the contrast between the different larger
surfaces. For example, skirting boards should be the same colour as either the
walls or floors, or
highlight the contrast more.
Pillars and similar obstacles should be avoided in the design of new buildings.
Existing pillars should be clearly distinguishable from their surroundings.
Paint and even posters, provided they do not distort the shape, can be used
to achieve this. Decorative mirrors are hazards and should not be used.
Shiny and glazed surfaces and decorative mirrors confuse visually impaired
people and should be avoided wherever possible. Matt and mid-sheen finishes
may be used for painted surfaces, and glazed surfaces can be improved by differentiated
banding at eye level, from child and wheelchair-user to tall adult.
Patterns and mixed colour effects can be used, but designs which use highly
contrasting colours in irregular or striped patterns should be avoided, especially
if they distort the shape and location of importantfeatures such as a doorway
or the corner of a wall.
On floors, the deliberate use of designs which incorporate guidance patterns
can be helpful, e.g. to help find a safe route across large spaces, locate doorways
along corridors, or guide around fixed obstructions.
Doors are important features which should be readily identifiable and clearly
differentiated from the surrounding wall surfaces. The architrave should be
the same colour as either the door or wall, or highlight the doorway by further
contrast. Door handles should be readily identifiable and different in colour
from the door. If a door is of a type which can be left partly or fully open,
the vertical door edge should be strongly contrasted to the door and surrounding
surfaces, to minimise the hazard (see 6.5 Doors and entrances).
The nosings of steps and stairs should be highlighted in a single colour which
contrasts with the adjacent surfaces. A change in colour should be used to highlight
the surface of an internal ramp and change in floor gradient.
Handrails should be readily identifiable and differentiated from the supporting
wall colour, and from the surface of steps and ramps if freestanding (see 6.2
Ramps and 6.3 Steps and stairs).
The main features inside a toilet cubicle should contrast tonally with their
background. All-white sanitary fittings against all-white walls are invisible
to some people. Polished chrome and shiny, gloss finishes can be difficult to
see. Matt finishes are available which minimise glare (see 6.9
Smaller items need a bigger colour difference to show up against their surroundings.
Features such as light switches and lift control buttons should contrast strongly
with the surrounding surface.
Free-standing obstacles, such as tables and chairs, should be clearly visible
and contrast sufficiently with the surrounding floor and wall furnishings against
which they are seen. Strong contrast is desirable for items that project out
from their supports, such as signs, telephones, literature displays and coat
The use of lighting for effect must be balanced with the need to maintain a
safe environment, especially for visually impaired people. The nature of lighting
can alter people's perception of colours and contrasts. Too much lighting can
reduce contrast and increase glare. Point sources of lighting, when not carefully
used, can produce disorientating pools of light andshadows (see 5.11
Lighting should illuminate the way, without glare, confusing reflections or
shadows, for people entering, using and leaving a building. All areas should
have adequate lighting levels. Special attention should be paid to doorways
and places where people may be expected to manoeuvre or change pace. Facilities
and features where people have to operate controls, such as information panels,
directional signs, call buttons, access panels and interactive terminals, should
be clearly lit. Unattended areas where people may have to wait, such as at lobbies,
lifts and bus shelters, should have adequate lighting (see 6.6
Lobbies and corridors, 6.7 Lifts, and 5.23
Taxi ranks and bus stops).
Reliance upon natural daylight may cause problems outside and inside some buildings.
Strongly directional daylight from windows and roof-lights may cause changing
patterns of light and shadow across interior surfaces. Moving sunlight can cause
unacceptable glare. Externally, as well as internally, artificial lighting should
be provided where use of the building will extend into the hours of dusk or
darkness, which can be after 9 a.m. and before 4 p.m. during winter months.
Types of lighting should be used which do not distort colours too greatly.
Fluorescent lamps may cause glare when the tubes are exposed, and the flickering
of older tubes can adversely affect people with epilepsy.
The level and source of lighting is important to people who need to lip read.
Counters and reception desks should be correctly positioned, so that a window
or bright light source is not behind either person speaking (see 6.12
next fact sheet 6.21
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