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Tactile Domes vs Detectable Bars: Knowing the Difference

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Tactile Domes vs Detectable Bars: Knowing the Difference

Tactile walking surface indicators (TWSIs) are a crucial accessibility feature in buildings and public spaces, providing critical textured cues for improved navigation and safety for the visually impaired. Two main types of TWSIs exist—tactile domes and detectable bars—which serve complementary purposes. But what exactly distinguishes these two essential tactile systems?


In this blog post, we’ll explore the key differences between tactile domes and detectable bars to develop a deeper understanding of how these accessible design elements enhance spaces.


Understanding Tactile Domes


Tactile domes, also known as truncated domes or detectable warning pavers, are specialized textured tiles used to indicate potential hazards. These warning indicators feature small, flattened dome bumps in a consistent pattern, alert pedestrians to stop, assess their surroundings, and proceed with caution.


Tactile domes are commonly used at:


  • Transit Platform Edges: Prevent slips and falls at dangerous platform edges

  • Curb Ramps: Mark the transition from sidewalk to street

  • Building Entrances: Indicate change in elevation at thresholds

  • Staircases: Signal upcoming stairs

  • Pedestrian Crossings: Define the crossing point before vehicle routes

  • Escalators: Forewarn of moving staircases


The unique feeling underfoot provides a vital cue—“warning, danger ahead.” In addition to the textural pattern, domes often feature bright contrasting colors like safety yellow for high visibility. Compliant domes are essential for potential fall or impact hazards.


Key Features:


  • Standardized truncated domes in consistent square or radial patterns

  • Installed at platform edges, stairs, curb ramps, and other hazards

  • Bright safety yellow or white for visibility

  • Caution users and mark upcoming dangers


Understanding Detectable Bars


Detectable bars, also called directional bars or guidance bars, are another type of TWSI used to guide pedestrians along pathways and circulation routes. Featuring a series of elongated flat-topped ribs running in the direction of travel, these indicators provide orientation cues for improved accessibility.


Detectable bars are commonly used:


  • Along Pedestrian Walkways - Guide users through open spaces

  • In Transit Stations - Direct passengers to platforms, exits, etc.

  • Public Plazas - Safely lead across expansive open areas

  • Office Lobbies - Direct from entries to key amenities

  • Government Complexes - Guide through labyrinthine spaces


Unlike domes, the linear ribbed texture signals “follow this path.” Bars make navigation intuitive, allowing users to traverse unfamiliar environments independently. They define accessible routes of travel to key destinations.


Key Features:


  • Parallel raised bars running in the direction of travel

  • Installed along designated pedestrian routes

  • Color contrasting, avoid using yellow

  • Provide directional orientation cues


Comparing Tactile Domes and Detectable Bars


While both critically accessible design elements, some key differences between tactile domes vs detectable bars include:



  • Domes caution users about upcoming hazards

  • Bars guide users along proper circulation routes

Typical Configuration:

  • Domes have truncated dome bumps in consistent grid patterns

  • Bars feature parallel raised ribs running directionally


  • Domes at platform edges, stairs, curb ramps, etc.

  • Bars along pedestrian walkways and routes

User Experience:

  • Domes signal “caution” and the need to assess the surroundings

  • Bars enable intuitive wayfinding through spaces

Color Contrast:

  • Domes often safety yellow or white for high visibility

  • Bars use colors contrasting the floor but avoid yellow


While different in purpose and design, tactile domes and detectable bars work together. Pedestrian routes often begin and end with domes that indicate upcoming decision points or hazards. Investing in quality-compliant tactile walking surfaces creates consistently accessible and interpretable cues.


Tactile Design Guidelines and Standards


When employing tactile walking surface indicators in Canada, it’s crucial to comply with all relevant accessibility regulations and building codes. 


These include:

  • Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

  • CSA B651 - requirements for tactile walking surface indicators

  • Ontario Building Code

  • National Building Code of Canada

Key specifications involve:

  • Material durability and strength

  • Standardized sizes, patterns and layouts

  • High tonal and color contrast

  • Beveled edges for a smooth transition

  • Strategic placement to properly convey meaning


By consulting standards and working with experienced providers, designers can select optimal tactile systems that enhance accessibility and safety.


Choosing the Best Tactile Solutions


As Canada’s premier accessibility solutions provider, Tactile Solution Canada supplies high-quality tactile systems from trusted industry brands:


  • Armor Tile - Cast-in-place and surface-applied polymer composite tactile

  • Access Tile - Replaceable composite tactile tiles

  • Advantage Tile - ADA-compliant tactile indicator tiles (Single domes and bars & plates)

  • Eon – Durable rubber attention and directional tiles

  • Elan - Premium porcelain tactile pavers


Our extensive selection of tactile solutions are:


  • Engineered for strength, durability, and slip resistance

  • Customizable in various colors, sizes, and dome patterns

  • Compliant with all Canadian accessibility standards

  • Backed by 5+ year manufacturer warranties


Let our team of experts recommend the optimal tactile warning systems for your next architectural or landscape project. Contact Tactile Solution Canada today to enhance accessibility, safety, and experience!


Frequently Asked Questions


What are the main types of tactile indicators?

The two main types are detectable warning pavers with truncated domes that caution about hazards and directional bars that guide along accessible routes.


Where are domes vs bars typically used?

Domes are used at stairs, curbs, platforms, etc. Bars are installed along interior circulation paths and exterior walkways.


Can they be used together?

Yes, domes and bars work in tandem. Pedestrian paths often begin/end with warning domes indicating upcoming decision points.


What standards apply to tactile indicators in Canada?

Relevant regulations include the AODA, CSA B651, Ontario Building Code, and National Building Code of Canada.


Who should you contact for compliant tactile solutions?

Tactile Solution Canada is the premier accessibility solutions provider in Canada, offering a wide selection of compliant tactile warning systems.




Tactile domes and detectable bars serve vital complementary purposes in enhancing accessibility. Investing in compliant, durable, tactile walking surface indicators creates consistently interpretable guidance and hazard cues. With creative solutions now available in various materials, colors, sizes and patterns, selecting tactile products tailored to your spatial needs is important. Consult experienced providers at Tactile Solution Canada to specify the optimal systems to make your next space safer and more accessible.