Edited by Lennart Strand and Peter Simlinger
[Information Design Journal 16:3] 2008
► pp. 178–189
Using visual contrast for effective, inclusive environments
Colour and lighting play important and unique roles in the way people enjoy environment or spaces.
There is a constant interaction between people and the colours that surround them which not only affects the way they move around within the space but also determines how safe, secure and confident they feel when doing so. In addition, colour can help people determine which route to take, and what potential hazards or obstacles they may encounter. Lighting plays an important role in how different colours and combinations of colours are seen and experienced.
Whilst this is true for all users, for people with sensory impairments, being able to navigate and to identify features is critical to their ability to use an environment or space without undue effort, in safely, with confidence and, wherever possible, independently.
For partially sighted people, maximising the effectiveness of their residual vision through the use of environmental factors such as visual contrast and lighting can also have a major impact on their sense of well-being and on their ability to make decisions about how to use the environments they encounter.
In considering the light reflected from a colour – known as its light reflectance value (LRV) – it is possible to specify levels of visual contrast that are appropriate to meet the needs of many partially sighted people. Linking this to an understanding of the search and navigation strategies they adopt when using buildings and space means it is also possible to create interesting and innovative designs and decoration schemes that assist partially sighted people without creating environments that are unacceptable to other users.