Inclusivity is the new buzzword. There is almost no project today, public or private, that doesn’t use the “inclusivity tag” – one can practically see the utopia on the horizon… But is it a fully inclusive noble trend or just a buzzword that “buzzes” louder than it works in practice?
Inclusive wayfinding for people with disabilities more or less comes down to using Braille, sufficient colour contrasts, glare-free finish and tactile letters, which is an excellent step in the right direction. But that type of inclusive signage caters only to a small percentage of users. While planning and designing orientation systems, we should consider all disabilities, including non-physical ones.
What does “Neurodivergent” mean?
Neurodivergent is an umbrella term that describes individuals who think and process information differently than the norms of a particular culture. Conditions such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ADHD, or Autism are included under the umbrella of neurodiversity. People who are usually marginalised in society represent the world’s most significant minority, between 15-20 per cent of the world’s population. These people may have a harder time understanding and following standard directions or visual cues. They may experience difficulties concentrating and understanding specific colour patterns, as much as they dislike noisy and cluttered environments – all of this results in a sensory overload and consequently in poor user experience.
Taking the time to consider those with neurodivergent conditions when creating planning orientation systems will make spaces more user-friendly, welcoming and safer for all.
People with neurodivergent conditions thrive on predictability, so having a space difficult to navigate can create an overwhelming, stressful and negative experience. Designing spaces with engaging and intuitive navigation devices can make a big difference to someone’s comfort level.
Signage and Wayfinding in the World of Neurodiversity
Besides the use of natural lighting and sound-absorbing materials in architecture and interior design, signage plays a big role in the overall experience for neurodivergent people. For example, using softer, organic forms and rounded corners is more sensory-friendly. Using clear, well-designed symbols has been shown to make information more accessible.
Additionally, using simple and short verbiage, avoiding jargon, and using pastel colour schemes and sans-serif typefaces throughout the signage reduces anxiety and makes information easier to understand and remember. Text size should be slightly larger, and line spacing should be more generous. All-caps texts should be avoided to help dyslexic people, as well as ones with learning disabilities. Background artwork, glossy additions, or corporate logos should be avoided on signs.
Strategically colour-coded spaces help people find their way around and become more confident within the environment. By carefully selecting colour palettes, it is important to coordinate them with the furniture programme and other landmark elements in key areas, we can help those who struggle with keeping a clear sense of place and direction.
By utilising these principles, we will create a truly inclusive wayfinding experience that allows those with neurodivergent conditions to feel safe and supported while moving around their environment.
At Modulex, we hire global experts in project management, wayfinding strategy, signage design, and fabrication. We believe inclusivity is a right of all people and will ensure we help our clients take a thoughtful approach to the needs of the neurodivergent population.
Thank you to Robert Canak, Managing Partner at our Croatia office for this insightful article.