Colour and contrast within the built environment affects accessibility of all building users, in particular those with a visual impairment
A research project carried out by Reading University in conjunction with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (GDBA) and ICI Paints first examined the use of colour contrast to aid navigation around the building and identified that highlighting critical surfaces and special features can provide the basis for wayfinding for visually impaired people.
The ‘Colour Contrast & Perception’ document produced by Reading University uses light reflectance values (LRVs) to measure colour and contrast in products/surfaces and determines whether or not a suitable contrast has been achieved between surfaces.
The findings from Project Rainbow identified the following:
Special Features: identified as areas that need to be highlighted to allow a building to be used effectively by visually impaired people, i.e. stair nosing, handrails and door opening furniture.
‘Special features are additional areas, smaller that critical features, that need to be highlighted to allow the building to be used more easily by visually impaired people. Such features include sanitary ware, handrails, door handles, finger plates, switches, socket outlets, and stair nosing etc, all of which should be contrasted against the background against which they will be seen. Smaller items such as these will need a greater colour difference from their surroundings in order to be identified.’
Trim: ‘Special attention is needed to those items used in an internal environment to improve the decorative appeal and overall finish of an interior. Such items, which include coving, skirting, architrave, dado rail etc, should be decorated in colours used on larger critical surfaces.’