Vision Impairment

Consideration must be given to the percentage of the community with vision impairment (low vision and those that are blind). People with low vision or those who are blind may still have some visual perception remaining and it is therefore important to consider how a building can be better equipped, which must include good wayfinding and exit sign strategies.[1]

Lady walking with white caneVision Australia has estimated that there are currently 357,000 people in Australia who are blind or have low vision.[2] When using the ABS data, the ABCB found that of the population 1.6% have a vision impairment, which equates to approximately 1 in 62 people.[3]

When we take into account this high prevalence of people in buildings with low vision, or those who are blind, it is critical to provide for their needs during an emergency. Particularly when our current wayfinding strategies in buildings, including exit signage is generally only able to be identified by visual means.[4]

During an emergency the senses people with vision impairment rely upon could be overwhelmed by the events unfolding around them, it is therefore critical to consider enhanced safety measures for these people.[5] This includes providing a consistent, uniform and effective exit sign strategy in building, with Braille and tactile instructions, tactile pictograms and tactile directional indicators.

[1] Proulx, G & Pineau, J 1996, Review of Evacuation Strategies for Occupants with Disabilities, pp.2-5,13,15,, viewed 21 October 2013

[2] Australian Network on Disability, Stats & Facts,, viewed 26 August 2015

[3] Australian Building Codes Board 2013, Lifts Used During Evacuation Handbook Non-Mandatory Document, p.35,, viewed 26 August 2015

[4] Rutherford, P & Withington DJ 1998, ‘Sound verses Sight for Emergency Egress’, Access by Design, January-April, pp.1-3

[5] United States Fire Administration 1999, FEMA, FA-206/December 1999 Fire Risks for the Blind or Visually Impaired, p. 3,, viewed 26 August 2015

Buildings need exit and emergency signs to identify parts of the accessible means of egress. An Accessible Exit Sign Project Initiative.

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