Clearing Our Path

Creating accessible environments ­for people with vision loss

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Design Needs

Design Basics

Exteriors and Interiors

Exterior Design Elements

Interior Design Elements

Theatres, Performance Spaces and Lecture Halls

Seating in a lecture hall or theatre should be oriented so that the occupants sit facing the focal point of the room. Position the room’s furniture and fixtures so that a clear view of the focal point is maintained. Sloping or “raking” the floor so that the back of the room is higher than the front also helps keep the focal point unobstructed. Even a gentle slope (such as 1:30) helps.

The path of travel to the seating area shouldn’t cross the line of sight to the focal point. For example, in most theatres the entrances are at the back or sides, out of the patrons’ line of sight to the stage.

Spaces to accommodate guide dogs and seat their handlers should be provided close to the path of travel. They should be clearly marked to keep them reserved for people who need them.

Consider removable seats to create safe, comfortable seating for guests with guide dogs. These seats should be located next to an aisle. Avoid designated seating for guide dog handlers at the back or off to the side of an auditorium.

Public address messages should include the location of emergency exits, for example: “There are emergency exits on either side of the stage at the front of the auditorium.” Many people with vision loss regularly attend public events independently, so it’s not appropriate to assume that a sighted companion will always be present.

Lighting can be used to accentuate key areas in an assembly or meeting place. For example, a lecture hall may have a combination of lighting levels and lighting patterns that draws attention to the lecturer.

Take care to maintain adequate light levels, and gradually change levels where appropriate. For instance, the difference in lighting between the lobby of a theatre and the seating area should be gradual to accommodate people with difficulties adapting to sudden changes in light levels. One approach is to provide the brightest lighting at the entrance and ticket sales counter and then slightly reduced lighting at the concession stands and restrooms. The inside of the theatre would have the lowest level of lighting. Before the event starts, lights in the room should be dimmed gradually.

Colour contrast on furniture and room fixtures can facilitate better use of a room. For example, in a theatre with dark-coloured seating, a dark-coloured stage set against a light background will direct the audience’s attention to the stage. Colour-coded seating can make it easier to find a specific section (e.g., rows A to D are dark blue, rows E to H are dark yellow, etc.).

In a meeting room such as a municipal council chamber, the colour of seating can be used to distinguish different types of participants: council members, city administrators, members of the media, members of the public, etc. It’s best to keep colour schemes simple and avoid complex patterns. Review the section Colour and Brightness Contrast for information on using colour appropriately to benefit people with vision loss.

Stages and platforms should have their perimeters identified by a tactile material that is colour contrasted from the surrounding stage or platform floor surface.