Visual Design for All – Looking Good While Being Accessible

Visual Design for All – Looking Good While Being Accessible


Christian Vogelauer, WU Vienna - Institute for Transport and Logistics Management, Elmar W.M. Fürst, WU Vienna - Institute for Transport and Logistics Management


Effective visual design is one of the cornerstones for successful mobility for all passengers. However this proposition is not always adhered to. Through interdisciplinary research, solutions for appealing and accessible design are investigated.


Navigating the built environment is a prerequisite for being mobile. This task is already being supported for many impaired user groups. Blind persons are provided with tactile guidance systems while wheelchair users and mobility impaired persons are the primary target groups for ramps and elevators. However as some recently built transport nodes show, there is still little to no understanding of the influence the visual/optical design of a building has on the ability of (impaired) persons to find their way. Especially for sight impaired persons who still rely on their visual sense but require more pronounced contrasts and lighting situations, a suboptimal visual design often proves an insurmountable barrier.
By installing high-reflectance floor materials (e.g. black marble) or glossy glass panes as partitions architects produce additional blinding surfaces that significantly hinder the orientation of sight impaired persons. Another often seen but problematic situation are very bright lamps that are positioned directly in front or behind of information signs so that the person reading those is permanently blinded. A third situation often described as problematic is the change between daylight and artificially lit environments and the accommodation time the human eye requires thus leading to dangerous situations when there is a lot of persons moving with little spare room. Due to legislation concerning accessible public transport such shortcomings often entail large conversion costs which could easily be circumvented during the design and construction process.
On the other hand, the joy and excitement when a new and stunning looking building is opened to the public is an important motivator for architects to reach for new concepts and mixtures of color, material and form. Thus narrowly restricting the possible options of material-lighting-surface options available to designers would lead to boring and uninspired environments for all of us.
Therefore the research project “ViDeA – Visual Design for all”, which is jointly developed by two universities and specialists in the field of optometrics as well as associations of sight impaired persons and funded by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency under the “Mobility of the future”-program, was initiated. The ultimate goal of this project is to provide designers and architects with a tool that allows them to check their planned material-lighting-surface composition and see whether it is accessible for sight impaired persons or not and to make adaptions where required while still providing a large choice of different design solutions. As the project is still ongoing the proposed contribution will provide the outline of the project and first insights in the current results that include an assessment of the impact different lighting situations have on sight impaired persons as well as preliminary results from in-the-field case studies on different public transport nodes.


Association for European Transport