Back in January ID/Lab initiated an industry wide response to proposed changes to the Australian Standards of Wayfinding. If the changes will go ahead as presented in the Draft then this will have a drastic impact on the design options for future building projects for architecture, landscaping, interiors and signage.
We promised to share an open letter - which was put together as a group response , with input from all - on our blog, expressing concerns from the Design Industry to the Draft, as addressed to higher levels.
On 3 March 2016 the following letter was sent to the CEO and the Executive Team of Standards Australia:
3 March 2016
To the CEO and Executive of Standards Australia
Dr Bronwyn Evans
Chief Executive Officer
We write to express our concern in regard to Draft Standard DRAS 1428.4.2:2015 Design for access and mobility. Part 4.2: Wayfinding.
We appreciate that considerable time and effort has been spent in drafting this document, however we see the principles embodied in this Draft Standard as a backward step in assisting the disability sector that it focuses on as well as the community at large.
We do not believe the Australian community needs this Standard and do not see how this Standard would provide a Net Benefit.
The standard is intended to be part of the existing suite of AS1428 Standards that address design for access and mobility and has been prepared by Standards Australia Committee
ME-064, Access for People with Disabilities.
The new Draft Standard prescribes a network of specific elements incorporating tactile (raised) lettering and Braille messages and delineated pathways that are marked by
changes in surface colour or texture into a building or public place.
These elements are intended to form part of the built environment. They are described as a Wayfinding System that is intended to assist blind and vision impaired people to circulate through any site independently.
Our concerns regarding the impact of this Standard are as follows:
It will have a significant impact on building design and there has been very
limited consultation with building design professionals in its development.
It focuses on prescriptive solutions for blind and vision impaired people only
rather than describing broad objectives to be achieved by good design.
It predetermines wayfinding design outcomes with one type of design approach with no recognition of new digital technology developments in signage and hand held devices.
This design approach mandates static technologies such as Braille
(developed in 1824) with no scope for new digital technologies.
It will benefit very few members of the community, for instance, we estimate the number of blind people who can read Braille is approximately 0.1% of the whole population of Australia, that is approximately 23,000 people and yet this Standard mandates Braille signage throughout all public places.
Many aspects of it are untested and unproven in the real world.
It will be difficult if not impossible to implement in large complex public environments where good wayfinding design is most needed.
It will effectively create two wayfinding systems for many public places - one that meets the requirements of this Standard and another visual system that sighted people would need to use.
It will come at a significant financial cost, easily doubling the current costs of wayfinding signage systems.
The document is open to considerable interpretation which will create confusion, conflict and inefficiencies in its implementation.
The Draft Standard would have significant impact on a range of building design
professionals including Architects, Interior Designers and Landscape Architects.
We believe that this document does not meet Standards Australia’s own definition
of providing Net Benefit to the community as stated at standards.org.au.
Every Australian Standard, regardless of who develops it, must demonstrate
positive Net Benefit to the community as a whole. All Australian Standards
must provide a value or benefit that exceeds the costs likely to be imposed on suppliers, users and other parties in the community as a result of its development or adoption and implementation.
Also we note Standards Australia’s Seven Benefits of Standards as stated on the website
and point out that this Draft Standard is in direct conflict with item 2. Standards support Australian Innovation.
2. Standards support Australian innovation
Standards provide a platform on which to build new and exciting ideas. As our
world changes, new Standards are introduced to reflect the latest technologies, innovations and community needs - redundant Standards are discarded.
The public comment period for this Draft Standards has now closed. We hope that Standards Australia is able to thoughtfully assess the public feedback as well as consider more deeply the real world impacts and cost to benefit of this document.
Director. Jack Bryce Urban Design
Director. Best Group
Director. Büro North
Director. Peter Campbell Designs
Director. The Buchan Group
CEO. Frost Collective
Principal. Minale Tattersfield
Director. Brand Culture
Principal. Twolanes Creative.
Managing Director. Diadem
Director. Deuce Design
The companies represented here are prominent professional practices in the field of Wayfinding Design. We have contributed to many major public projects in Australia including transport, major hospitals, university campuses, sporting venues, city centres and civic places.
What is wayfinding? Wayfinding is the cognitive process that we all use to navigate and find our way around public places such as airports, hospitals, university campuses or city centres. This relies on reading all sorts of visual cues in the landscape combined with an organised well designed signage system.
Wayfinding design is a relatively new design discipline that is increasingly in demand in the building industry. As our built environments become larger and more complex, the requirement to keep people informed, connected and safe is always increasing.
Wayfinding design is based on understanding user needs that informs a strategic design solution that will bring order and clarity to a complex environment.