This blogpost is to draw your attention to the Draft Australian Standard for Wayfinding (DRAS 1428.4.4:2015 Design for access and mobility. Part 4.2 Wayfinding).
If you are an architect, interior designer, landscape architect, builder, developer etc, then you should read this:
The Draft Australian Standard for Wayfinding will have a significant impact on the design options for future building projects, for architecture, landscaping, interiors and signage.
ID/Lab has initiated an industry-wide response to the Draft Standards, and we invite you to review the Draft Standards for yourself and provide comments on it.
Next to prescribing what wayfinding signage should look like, and where it should be placed, it also specifies in detail, wayfinding paths (external and internal), shorelines, ground textural surface contrasts, and other surface luminance contrasts. This in particular should be reviewed by architects, landscape architects and interior designers, builders, developers as it will drastically affect the design façades, foyers, interiors, landscape elements, development, and cost of implementation for a large range of facilities.
To summarise some of the key elements:
- The design requirements for these information points will have significant repercussions on the entrance experience of all buildings and facilities. It mandates how entrance information needs to be provided, where it needs to be provided, and how to design that information. These are significant in scale and visual impact.
- The constraints around design will mean integrated, attractive, and effective wayfinding signs cannot be achieved. This will limit the ability of architects and designers to define the experience of the facilities they develop, and will lead to a profusion of unnecessary wayfinding signage across these environments.
- It will increase the cost of supplying wayfinding signage. An initial analysis of a recently completed hospital estimates the cost for the production of the wayfinding signage would double if it would have to comply with this Standard. This does not even include the increased costs in pathway surface finishes and textures as prescribed in the Standard.
- Many of the measures ignore best practice, and are not backed by scientific or peer reviewed research.
- It will create multiple, overlapping sign systems. This will further increase the cost of maintenance and impact the ability of organisations and facilities to keep signage up to date and relevant. This is already a significant lifespan cost for many buildings and will only go up with the implementation of this Standard.
The Draft Standard states that its aim is to enhance wayfinding for all users through the provision of design requirements for wayfinding. As currently proposed, the standard works for a small segment of blind and vision impaired only, and does not work to provide a functional built environment for all users. It may actually hamper effective wayfinding for all users, particularly in larger and more complex facilities such as airports, hospitals, stadia, and universities.
As designers working in the built environment we all aim to develop environments that are safe and inclusive for all, and we believe strongly in Universal Design principles. However, ID/Lab believe the Draft Standard goes well beyond local and comparable international Standards.
It emphasises the use of a nineteenth century technology (Braille) which is used by only a tiny fraction of blind or partially sighted people. The Draft Standard provides no evidence to support the emphasis on Braille and tactile text and maps and largely ignores the existing and emerging technologies that are increasingly relevant for those with access needs.
We encourage you to read this Draft Standard and, if you share our concerns, provide your comments back to Standards Australia before the deadline. We understand that actioning this takes time, but the consequences of this proposed standard becoming law would be disastrous for public space architecture, of which effective wayfinding is an important part.
Please also consider sending this blogpost on to your colleagues, clients and your professional institute representatives for review and comment. The Draft Standard is currently available for Public comment (free registration required) until 15 February 2016. (Not 18 January as shown on the document.)
Within a group of wayfinding consultants, we have been discussing also sending a group letter to higher levels (considering the Minister, CEO and Executive of Standards Australia).
We will share a draft of this letter on our blog when it is available, with the aim to have everyone who is committed to the statements made in the letter, to be signatories.