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What Makes an Accessible Environment: Supporting People With a Visual Impairment

Creating an accessible environment can boost a visually impaired person's self-esteem. Not only that, but the venue itself also benefits from attracting a wider range of people to use the facilities. This section of the toolkit discusses some important considerations for facilities to ensure that your environment supports people with a visual impairment

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Play the video below to experience a virtual tour that explores some practical steps to help create a more accessible environment, regardless of the venue or activity.

Remember to be mindful that sight loss may not always be obvious.

There are several things to consider when welcoming a blind or partially sighted person into your facility. It is important to remember that blind and partially sighted people don't necessarily "look blind". Not all blind and partially sighted people wear dark glasses, or have a cane or guide dog. What's more, not all people who use sight aids such as a cane or guide dog are totally blind.

Explore some of the adaptations that facilities and staff members can make below.

The Facility

  • Ensure the circulation areas are clear of obstructions that could be hazardous to people who are blind or partially sighted.
  • Do not leave doors half open and be aware of head height restrictions.
  • Good lighting allows people to make the most of their remaining vision.
  • Good colour contrast is helpful. For example, dark objects against a pale background (and vice versa) are more visible.
  • Steps are less hazardous if clearly marked.

Signage

  • Correct and inclusive signage, inside and outside, helps with navigation.
  • Signage should be at eye level and sized to be easily understood by blind and partially sighted users.
  • There should be a good colour contrast between words and sign background.
  • Tactile signage (read by touch) can be beneficial to people with visual impairments.

Equipment

  • Tactile markings can be used to identify important information, buttons or settings on things. For example, they could be used on resistance equipment to help the user understand how much weight they are loading on.
  • Spacing - ensure that fitness equipment is well spaced out so that there are no tight spaces to navigate and, where needed, there is ample room to use a cane. It is also important to highlight any rearrangement to a facility.
  • Adapted equipment - This may mean a minor a adaptation to a ball or piece of gym equipment, such as using a ball that is larger and has ball bearings inside. Similarly, good colour contrast could be used to idetnify certain parts of gym equipment.
  • Bump-ons (or bump dots) can be used to help users locate equipment and controls on equipment.

Guide Dogs

  • Normally guide dogs are left in a quiet, designated space, for example in an office or behind reception.
  • As guide dogs are highly trained, it will have been trained to lie quietlly, perhaps under a table and should not cause any disturbances.
  • A bowl of water available to the guide dog is usually all that's needed. Playing with the dog is generally discouraged unless agreed with the owner.
  • The owner remains responsible for the dog at all times.

Technology

As facilities become increasingly dependent on technology, it is important to consider how accessible this is. This can include things like websites, social media, virtual classrooms and online booking platforms. It may come as a surprise that 98% of websites have content accessibility errors. What's more, 38% of all people with sight loss do not have access to or have never used the internet, according to RNIB.

Consider the following:

  • If your activity timetables are accessed online, do you have an alternative format such as a downloadable PDF that can be read using a screen reader?
  • Are your bookings taken online? Could you provide an alternative method such as telephone booking for people who may struggle to use the online booking system?

Consulting with visually impaired people is a great way to explore ways to be more accessible. As a member of staff working in a facility, it is recommended that you have knowledge of alternative methods of someone gaining accessible information.

Explore More About How To Make Your Facility More Accessible

Inclusive Facilities Guidance

Some essential advice and practical tips on how to create an accessible environment and what adaptations facilities can make to be more inclusive for people with a visual impairment

Explore The Guidance

Practical Checklist For Inclusive Facilities

This simple, interactive checklist will help you to identify areas of good practice and areas for improvement.

Download The Checklist

Back to the Toolkit

Navigate back to the main toolkit page for Inclusive Facilities: Supporting People With a Visual Impairment

BACK TO THE TOOLKIT

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