People impacted by blindness can more easily memorize and become familiar with a space when it’s logically planned and defined. This is especially important in public spaces (e.g., street networks, transit facilities and shopping areas, including individual stores).

Use a consistent, logical and straightforward layout for both the exterior and interior of any designed environment. The main entrance should be directly accessible from the principal routes of travel from sidewalks, transit stops, parking lots, etc. Ensure that paths of travel are safe, accessible and have distinct tactile qualities where pedestrian traffic crosses through large open areas (e.g., parking lots). Distinct colour contrast should also be used between paths of travel and adjacent ground surfaces. Reception areas should be located close to the main entrance of a building.

Large open areas (e.g., reception halls, courtyards and airport terminals) can be difficult for people impacted by blindness to traverse without losing their orientation. Within such areas, use tactile walking surface indicators (TWSIs) or a continuous strip of material that is texturally different as well as colour contrasted to the surrounding surface, to define a safe, detectable and direct route across open areas. Further information on tactile guidance surfaces is provided in the section Tactile Walking Surface Indicators.

A well-defined space uses straight lines and consistent right angles in its layout, thereby allowing people impacted by blindness to maintain their orientation. Hallways and pathways should be straight and turns should ideally be close or equal to 90 degrees.

The layout of floors should be identical or as close as possible to identical. Consider the following strategies when planning building/floor layouts:

  • Halls and washrooms should be in the same location on each floor so the information someone learns on one floor can be applied to another.
  • Essential features, such as washrooms, elevators and staircases, should be grouped together, wherever possible, in one central area of the building.
  • Stairs and elevators should be located close to each other.
  • Men’s and women’s washrooms should be located next to each other and, if possible, accessed from the main circulation route.
  • Washrooms should be available without having to go up or down a set of stairs.

Changing the layout of a public space can present a problem for regular visitors to a public space who have blindness and should be avoided wherever possible. For example, the frequent repositioning of tables and store fixtures in grocery and department stores is frustrating and at times dangerous for people impacted by blindness.