Designing a house or a structure for a visually impaired person results in amazing architecture, even better than our standard designs. This is because intricate factors and necessities are deeply analyzed and catered to. For a person with a certain disability, the other senses are exaggerated and tend to guide them collectively through space or life in general. The sense of touch, hearing, and smell for a visually impaired person would enable them to understand and visualize a space in a different way. Considering these factors, the design and concepts should be such that it appeals to all the senses and provides a sense of comfort and ease for a visually impaired person to maneuver through a structure. 

While some endless possibilities and factors should be kept in mind while designing a space for a person with low vision, here is a list of 10 things that would surely enable an architect to successfully design for the blind:  

1. Fewer barriers!

For a person with visual imparity, a space with a dense cluster of walls or barriers can be hazardous. Even if the person is accustomed to the layout and planning, it would be better if space has fewer walls and “obstacles”. Finding alternatives to standard walls like low walls, furniture elements, or creating openings within walls can be considered while designing, making the space more accessible.  

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Description: The Casa Mac House, Italy  

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Source: Arch Daily; https://www.archdaily.com

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Description: The Casa Mac House, Italy

Source: Arch Daily; ©https://www.archdaily.com

2. Way-finding

What is wayfinding? “Wayfinding refers to information systems that guide people through a physical environment and enhance their understanding and experience of the space.” 

While wayfinding is extremely necessary for a visually impaired person to help them guide through space, it is the job of an architect to create designs that would inculcate this feature. It can be done by using different materials on the floor and creating a pattern to guide people or by using fragrance to lead the way or by incorporating tactile materials to create a pathway.  

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Description: System of wayfinding using a change of materials at The Casa Mac House, Italy  

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Source: Arch Daily; ©https://www.archdaily.com

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Description: System of wayfinding using a change of materials at The Casa Mac House, Italy  

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Source: Arch Daily; ©https://www.archdaily.com

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Description: System of wayfinding using a change of materials at The Casa Mac House, Italy  

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Source: Arch Daily;© https://www.archdaily.com

3. A Universal design

Universal design is one that can be accessed effortlessly by people with a diverse range of abilities, including people who have limited vision or complete visual imparity. The goal is to create a design that is “universal” and “accessible” for everyone. The American Disabilities Act (ADA) recognizes these forms of disabilities and ensures a law that defines a set of guidelines that makes sure that a space is inclusive of all these concepts and necessities.  

4. Tactile materials 

Since a person with low visual ability cannot see the materials within a space, tactile materials or materials which encourage the sense of touch to perceive them, work wonders in a structure that is accessed by blind people. A variety of textures like that of a stone surface vs a textured concrete wall can create a significant impact for a visually impaired person to experience a space. The combination of these materials and textures creates a system for wayfinding as well as enables a person to differentiate between the spaces.

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Description: Tactile materials.   

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Source: Arch Daily;© https://www.archdaily.com

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Description: Tactile materials. 

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Source: Pinterest; ©www.pinterest.com

5. Acoustical treatments

Excessive noise or loud sounds can provide discomfort to a visually impaired person who relies the most on their hearing abilities. While moving through space, a blind person will take guidance from the sounds around, and hence, acoustic treatments of the walls and other surfaces are of prime importance. Canceling irritable noises like that of a mechanical vent or loud chattering and increasing the scope of natural sounds like that of people’s footsteps or the dripping of a water droplet, makes the space “sound better” and more comfortable.   

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Description: Ceiling acoustic treatment.   

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Source: Acoustic Fields; ©www.acousticfields.com

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Description: Wall acoustic treatment.   

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Source: ©Décor Systems

6. Braille

The best way to enable blind people to read a sign or even understand a plan is Braille- the language for blind people. Many architects have incorporated Braille in their architectural plans to help visually impaired people understand the layout. Architects at So & So Studio created small models of the house to make their clients understand the renovations of her house! Braille can also be applied to signages at places like an elevator button or a fire extinguisher that would enable the people to visualize the functions as required.  

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Description: Architecture plan in Braille   

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Source: The Architect’s Take; ©www.thearchitectstake.com

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Description: Signages in Braille   

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Source: Gravograph; ©www.gravograph.in

7. Technology 

Technology has evolved and how! Now, some smart homes and gadgets help people with certain disabilities to a great extent. Smart technologies allow personal assistants to help the occupants with their daily tasks. People can now change the temperature on their thermostat and even turn their lights on and off using technologies that enable them to control everything from one position. Architects can look into these new systems and generate a mechanism to enable a blind person to transform their entire house concerning their particular requirements.  

8. Fragrance or the sense of smell 

Apart from hearing and feeling materials via a sense of touch, the sense of smell can be enhanced too. Using fragrant flowers or plants in space can also guide a person through the structure and allow them to distinguish one space from another. At the Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Mexico, fragrant flowers in the garden act as sensory guides that help individuals to orient themselves within the structure.  

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Description: Sensory gardens.    

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Source: Pinterest, ©www.pinterest.com

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Description: The friendship park. 

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Source: Arch Daily; ©https://www.archdaily.com

9. Soft and natural lighting 

For people with low vision, extremely bright and glaring light can create strain in their eyes and cause a nuisance. Large glass surfaces without light protection that allow direct bright light to penetrate are very challenging. A survey shows that this is the biggest cause of the problem for a visually impaired person in a building. Thus, blinding lights and direct harsh sunlight should be curbed and soft lighting with low glare should be encouraged in a space for a visually impaired person.  

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Description: Skylights that increase the natural lighting in the classrooms at the Hazelwood School.   

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Source: Arch Daily; ©https://www.archdaily.com

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Description: Institute for the blind. 

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Source: Arch Daily; ©https://www.archdaily.com

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Description: Institute for the blind. 

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Source: Davis Partnership Architects; ©www.davispartnership.com

10. Color coding   

Why is color coding important for a visually-impaired person?  

People with low vision can visualize colors to some extent. Keeping this in mind, color composition and contrast is essential because an amalgamation of extremely bright color in one space can cause displeasure and thus inculcating different tones within a space is essential. A contrast can be for both color and luminance, which is associated with our ability to perceive depth and movement.

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Design for the blind- Image 17

Description: The Hazelwood School.   

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Source: Davis Partnership Architects; ©www.davispartnership.com

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Description: The Hazelwood School.   

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Source: Davis Partnership Architects; ©www.davispartnership.com
Author

Aishwarya Khurana is an architect and creative writer, who likes to express herself through humor, words, and quirky ideas. A design enthusiast, butter chicken lover, and music junkie, she loves to read and write about art & architecture and believes that nobody can defeat her in a pop-culture quiz.

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