How accessible wayfinding is going beyond the visual

Speaking to experts in architecture and design, CR looks into how accessible wayfinding has improved by subtly tapping into other senses, and what it needs to do to be truly inclusive

When we think of wayfinding and more specifically when ensuring its accessible, it’s easy to assume it’s simply just about the design of signage. But for Rafel Crespo, architect at White Arkitekter, it’s really about using architectural design, landmarks, colours, textures, lighting, sounds and other elements to help us find our way. “Fundamentally, all wayfinding should be accessible and support people of all abilities to navigate and experience a space,” he tells CR.

Crespo says there are two types of wayfinding: active and passive. Active wayfinding “requires components to be added to the environment to formally promote spatial orientation”, such as signs and maps. Passive wayfinding “uses the environment itself to guide visitors intuitively, such as clear entrances and logical pathways”. Ultimately both active and passive wayfinding tools “work together to make logical and accessible environments”.

While there are regulations and building codes of practice that aim to ensure spaces, especially public ones, are navigable, there is now a greater emphasis on accessibility than there once was. “As awareness of disabilities – physical, mental, visible and invisible – has grown across society, so too has the adoption of accessible wayfinding principles,” says Crespo.

Top and above: The Oriel, White Arkitekter, 3D impression