6. Accessibility: Wayfinding for Everyone

Accessible wayfinding for everyone
A guest contribution by Patrick Eley and Alan Stevenson.

What’s the point of a wayfinding system if not everyone can use it?

People need to do more than just read a sign, they need to understand it – instantly. An accessible wayfinding system accommodates the reality that everyone has different ways of taking in information and moving through a space. Our ageing society comes with its own set of requirements, not to mention, we all speak different languages.

Here we outline three ways to create a more universally accessible wayfinding system:


For a sign to be as legible as possible, the text colour needs a high degree of contrast against the background colour. The size and weight of the typeface needs to be considered to make sure it can be seen clearly from a distance – even by those with visual impairments. We also need to consider that the hardware of a sign doesn’t impede legibility. For example, a highly reflective surface becomes incredibly difficult to read when sunlight shines on it.


If someone feels more comfortable pre-planning before a visit, then that option needs to be available. Having a map available online or at the entrance to an environment will enable anyone with additional mobility needs to understand the space in advance and plan their route

At the risk of stating the obvious, not everyone speaks the same language. So when designing a signage system for environments like airports that are used by people from around the world, a pictogram is worth a thousand words.

In the context of wayfinding, pictograms tend to be simple stylised images that represent an instruction, feature or destination — often facilities such as toilets, stairs or lifts but also left turns, elephants or aeroplanes. We use these to make our signage immediate to as many people as possible.


Contributed by Patrick Eley and Alan Stevenson from DNCO an introduction to Chapter 6 of their new book Straight Forward: How Wayfinding Works and Why Strategy Matters.

Order your copy here.