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A Comprehensive Guide on Wayfinding Tactile for Visually Impaired

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A Comprehensive Guide on Wayfinding Tactile for Visually Impaired

"Safety and independence go hand in hand for people with vision loss. Thoughtfully designed wayfinding tactiles foster confidence, dignity, and autonomy for the blind or partially sighted community to navigate public spaces freely." - Thomas Schwartz


In today's world, where accessibility and inclusion have become fundamental human rights, providing adequate wayfinding assistance to the visually impaired community is of the utmost importance. As Canada moves closer to realizing its vision of becoming a fully inclusive society by 2040, installing code-compliant tactile wayfinding systems assumes greater significance with each passing year.


This comprehensive guide aims to be your one-stop resource on tactile wayfinding indicators. We will explore the need, codes, applications, design best practices, products available, and more to help you choose and implement the optimal solution for your indoor or outdoor navigation needs. Let's get started!


Understanding the Need


Canada is home to over 1.8 million people with some form of vision loss. For those who are blind or have low vision, navigating unfamiliar public spaces independently poses immense challenges. The lack of accessible wayfinding severely limits their mobility and independence.


Thoughtfully designed tactile indicators provide reliable navigational cues that allow visually impaired individuals to orient within buildings and outdoors confidently using their long white canes or remaining sense of touch. By tracing guidance paths between key decision points, they can reach their desired destinations efficiently and autonomously.


Key Accessibility Codes


When designing or upgrading wayfinding systems, it is imperative to adhere to established accessibility standards and regulations. The primary codes governing tactile installations in Canada include:


  • Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) - Mandates accessibility standards for customer service, information and communications, employment, transportation, and built environment.

  • National Building Code of Canada (NBC) - Specifies technical requirements related to building safety including provisions for accessibility features.

  • CSA B651-18 - Accessible Design for the Built Environment standard. Provides technical specifications for detectable warning surfaces and directional surfaces.

  • Ontario Building Code (OBC) - Accessibility requirements as per the AODA are incorporated into the Ontario building code.


Ensuring solutions meet the above compulsory standards is crucial for compliance and safety purposes. Our experts can advise on nuanced code specifications during design phases.


Optimal Applications


Tactile wayfinding indicators have diverse indoor and outdoor applications where orientation assistance is needed. Some of the top use cases include:


  • Transit stations, terminals and platforms

  • Shopping malls, plazas and concourses

  • University and college campuses

  • Museums, libraries, cultural centers

  • Hospitals, medical centers

  • Office towers and lobbies

  • Airports, train stations

  • Sidewalks, crosswalks, intersections

  • Parks, trails, recreational areas

  • Government buildings

  • Convention centers, arenas


Proactively incorporating guidance paths elevates these public and institutional facilities to the highest levels of inclusivity and accessibility for all.


Design Best Practices


For maximum usability, wayfinding systems must be logically planned, adhering to recognized accessibility standards and specifications. Some key success factors include:


Guidance Path Layout


  • Minimum 610mm wide cleared paths between decision points.

  • Clear directional arrows integrated at turns.

  • Ensure paths correlate with building layout for intuitiveness.

  • Distinct textures differentiate egress paths.


Material Selection


  • Hard-wearing for heavy outdoor use (porcelain, metal etc).

  • Appropriate for indoor/outdoor conditions and code-compliant.

  • Contrasting color from the surrounding surface.

  • Slip-resistant, durably bonded, and maintains luster.




  • Integrate at the start of guidance runs and decision points.

  • Align with the centerline of cleared paths of travel.

  • Continue full width through intersections or turns.




  • Conduct user testing of mock-ups to refine the design.

  • Ensure flow aligns with pedestrian traffic patterns.


Our experienced team can review your designs, conduct inspections, and provide recommendations to optimize accessibility.


Tactile Wayfinding Products


Once the design phase is complete, it's time to choose the right products. Here are some of the leading code-compliant options available:


1. AccessTile


A premium polymer tile system with unique replaceable precut modular features for easy future upgrades. Engineered for longevity with complex geometric patterns for clarity. Ideal for high-traffic indoor and outdoor applications.


2. Advantage Systems


Features stainless steel, porcelain and other metal tiles in multiple pattern options. Highly durable for demanding outdoor use like plazas or heavy-footfall areas. Blends seamlessly into both modern and classic aesthetics.


3. EonTile


Made from durable rubber polymers, this flexible tile system conforms to any surface for a seamless finish. Chemical resistant for indoor solutions requiring cleanability like medical or commercial use.


4. ElanTile


A state-of-the-art porcelain tile boasts superior technical specifications. A sleek aesthetic lends to uniform indoor or facade applications while providing uncompromised performance.


5. Ecoglo


Photoluminescent strips, stair nosings, and directional markers visible in the darkness. Non-slip and maintenance-free for continuous guidance along egress routes during emergencies. Ideal complement to primary systems.


We stock all leading brands and can facilitate product draws, specification sheets, and samples to evaluate options best suited to your unique project needs and budget.


Implementation Considerations


To ensure longevity and code compliance of the installed system, certain implementation best practices must be followed:

  • Surface Preparation

Thoroughly clean and prepare the mounting surface per manufacturer instructions. For outdoor applications, self-leveling polymers can even be used for bonding.

  • Installation

Use preset layout templates and specialized tools. Follow the supplied instructions precisely, paying attention to alignment and spacing. Allow adequate time for adhesives to fully cure.

  • Inspections

Conduct regular periodic checks as per the code cycle. Maintain aesthetic quality, and repair damages on priority for safety. Replace deteriorated tactiles immediately as they become due for upgrades.

  • Testing

Re-evaluate system performance involving users with vision impairments after installation or major repairs. Refine as required based on feedback.

  • Record Keeping

Document all project details, dates, inspectors name for audits and long-term maintenance planning. Update drawings as modifications occur.


Way Forward!


Canada envisions a barrier-free society where no one faces accessibility-related obstacles in their daily lives. As key stakeholders in this mission, we must prioritize inclusive design best practices right from the conceptualization stage of public and private infrastructure.


Proactively incorporating thoughtfully designed tactile wayfinding aids future proofs structures to accommodate diverse navigation needs from the very beginning. It fosters autonomy, dignity and participation for all members of the community including those with vision loss or disabilities.


So, the next time you embark on planning architectural upgrades or new builds, ensure tactile systems factor centrally into your accessibility protocol. Our experts are always available to guide you throughout the process to deliver optimally navigable results. Let's move together towards an accessible future for every Canadian.


We hope you found this comprehensive guide helpful in understanding the what, why and how of tackling wayfinding challenges through tactical solutions. Please feel free to contact us for any other accessibility related queries.