Resource List: Essentials for Accessible Environmental Graphic Design
I have a passion for designing experiences that are accessible. When the RGD asked me to share something useful with the fraternity, what immediately came to mind was a list of essential resources to refer to for an accessible environmental design.
“What is the right thing to do?”
“What do we need to do?”
“How do we do this?”
“What can we do to make this experience more accessible?”
Many of these questions are often asked by clients and designers when starting on a project with accessibility in mind. While the answer to these questions may vary depending on where you live, what your local regulations require and what your budget is, I find myself visiting the same websites during the design process to help answer these questions.
This white paper by the Society of Experiential Graphic Design (SEGD) is a helpful guide with clearly illustrated diagrams explaining the basic requirements for developing accessible signage based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
If your project’s focus is to address needs for users with visual impairments and you are aiming higher than just meeting the basic requirements, this may be the website you want to visit. In addition to design fundamentals, the 'Design Needs' section of the website also provides guidelines for special features for wayfinding, such as tactile walking surface indicators, which can be used to lead users from a building’s point of entry to the information they need for navigation.
I was first introduced to this handbook back in 2000, when I was working on the exhibit graphics for the Hall of Mammals at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. As a Canadian, I was very impressed to find that the handbook was referencing Parks Canada’s accessibility standards for type sizes, considerations for reading distance and font proportions. The handbook was also my first introduction to accessibility requirements.
What is the difference between the different grades of braille? How do I tell if the braille indicates a number or an alphabet? While it is not a requirement for designers to learn braille, I find it helpful to know some of the basics.
The website was founded by Josh Grisdale who has been traveling in Japan in his electric wheelchair. In addition to general information on accessibility, the website also describes both good and bad experiences one may have when visiting public spaces in Japan. The website puts you in the mindset of a person with disability and shows you a different way of looking at the world. As a designer, I find it helpful to put myself in the perspective of users with disabilities.