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Tactile Wayfinding Solutions for Visually Impaired: A Guide!

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Tactile Wayfinding Solutions for Visually Impaired: A Guide!

Navigating through public spaces can be challenging for individuals with visual impairments. Having proper wayfinding solutions in place is crucial to ensure accessibility and safety for the visually impaired. Tactile wayfinding uses specialized textures and indicators to guide users and provide important spatial information non-visually through the sense of touch.


As per accessibility legislation in Canada, implementing compliant tactile wayfinding solutions in public spaces is a legal obligation. This guide will explore what tactile wayfinding entails, how it helps the visually impaired, types of solutions and standards for optimal implementation. Read out to know: 


An Overview of Tactile Wayfinding


Tactile wayfinding utilizes standardized ground surface textures comprising raised bars or indicators installed in walking areas. These tactile cues serve to outline paths of travel and key points like amenities, exits, and turnings through distinctive patterns that can be felt underfoot or with a cane.


There are two main purposes tactile wayfinding serves:

  • Directional Guidance: The tactile indicators guide users along appropriate circulation paths and routes in spaces like transit platforms, parks, plazas, airports, and more.
  • Spatial Mapping: The tactile network provides a non-visual understanding of the configuration of space, interactions, and decision points, enabling the visually impaired to build a mental map.

Well-executed tactile wayfinding enables visually impaired individuals to navigate safely and independently within environments by providing physical directional prompts detectable through touch.


Benefits of Tactile Wayfinding Solutions


Thoughtfully implemented tactile wayfinding confers several advantages for enhancing accessibility:


  • Promotes independent mobility and avoids the need to rely on aids like sighted guides, which are not always available.
  • Allows intuitive navigation of unfamiliar public spaces without getting lost or disoriented.
  • Builds user confidence in exploring new environments knowing guidance is in place.
  • Provides consistent navigational cues across different locations and building typologies.
  • Alerts to key decision points like intersections through complementary hazard indicators.
  • Meets legal obligations for implementing accessibility solutions in public realms.
  • Creates inclusive, barrier-free spaces that accommodate users of diverse abilities.


Types of Tactile Wayfinding Solutions


There are multiple options available when specifying tactile wayfinding solutions:


Surface Applied Wayfinding Tiles: 


These are installed on existing hard surfaces using adhesive. It is ideal for retrofit projects with no demolition needed.


Cast-In-Place Wayfinding Tiles: 


These are installed directly into freshly poured concrete. It is suited for new construction. Provide permanent tactile guidance.


Individual Embedded BarsL 


Discrete bars screwed into existing surfaces. It is for smaller-scale applications.


Photoluminescent Wayfinding: 


Uses glow-in-the-dark photoluminescent strips. It provides illumination in the darkness.


Based on factors like setting, foot traffic, visibility needs and budget, appropriate solutions can be adapted to provide compliant and consistent tactile wayfinding.


Standards for Tactile Wayfinding Implementation


To ensure effectiveness, tactile wayfinding solutions must adhere to certain guidelines and codes. Key specifications as per CSA B651 include:


  • Bar height: 4-5mm for optimal detectability
  • Bar width: 17-30mm based on surrounding textures
  • Bar length: Minimum 270mm for adequate underfoot contact
  • Bar spacing: Gap of 12-61mm between bars depending on size
  • Bar layout: Parallel to the direction of travel for intuitive guidance
  • Material: Durable; slip-resistant; weather-resistant
  • Color contrast: Sufficient visual contrast between bars and ground for partial sight
  • Size: Minimum width of 0.6m for tile runs
  • Consistency: Uniform textures are used throughout all circulation paths and spaces
  • Placement: At pedestrian crossings, transit access points, between key nodes, across open areas
  • Beveled edges: Prevent tripping hazards between tiles and ground


Following recognized standards ensures tactile wayfinding is implemented thoughtfully by maximizing accessibility, detectability and safety.


Tactile Wayfinding Solutions for Public Settings


Here are some key public environments that benefit from properly integrated tactile wayfinding:


  • Airports: Guide users from check-in to gates, help desks, baggage claims, arrivals and more.
  • Transit Platforms: Provide directional guidance to boarding zones, information kiosks, staircases and ticket vending machines.
  • Parks and Plazas: Outline safe pedestrian circulation paths leading to and from park entrances/exits.
  • Sidewalks: Define walkways between street furniture and high footfall zones in open public right-of-ways.
  • Office Lobbies: Direct from entrance to reception, elevators, information desk and other amenities.
  • Retail Spaces: Help navigate large open floorplates in shopping centers/department stores between aisles, exits and help points.


Careful installation of compliant tactile wayfinding networks spanning key pedestrian zones makes public spaces more usable for citizens of all abilities.


Installation and Maintenance


Proper installation and care ensure longevity of tactile wayfinding solutions:


  • Follow manufacturer instructions for setting, orientation and adhesive usage.
  • Ensure proper alignment perpendicular to the direction of travel.
  • Provide adequate lighting and visual contrast for maximum visibility.
  • Check for damaged/uplifted tiles regularly and undertake prompt replacement.
  • Provide user testing and feedback post-installation to check effectiveness.


With conscientious installation and maintenance, tactile wayfinding solutions will provide enhanced accessibility and experience for years.


Tactile Wayfinding from Tactile Solution Canada


Tactile Solution Canada offers the widest range of compliant tactile wayfinding solutions from trusted brands like Access Tile, Armor Tile, Advantage Tile and Ecoglo. Our offerings are:


  • Tested to survive Canadian weather extremes and heavy footfall
  • Customizable with various color, size and material options
  • Backed by 5+ year manufacturer warranties
  • Easy to install, replace and maintain
  • Provide guidance and hazard demarcation per CSA B651
  • Help create accessible, inclusive environments


To learn more about tactile wayfinding or to get product recommendations from our experts, contact Tactile Solutions Canada today!




What are the main purposes of tactile wayfinding?


The two main purposes are to provide directional guidance along appropriate pedestrian paths and circulation routes and enable spatial mapping of environments.


Where is tactile wayfinding required as per Canadian regulations?


Tactile wayfinding is mandated in all public spaces like sidewalks, parks, transit platforms, airports, office lobbies, retail stores, government buildings as per the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.


What are the main types of tactile wayfinding solutions?


Major types are surface-applied tactile tiles, cast-in-place tactile tiles, metal tactile tiles, individual embedded bars, and photoluminescent wayfinding strips.


What factors should be considered when choosing tactile wayfinding solutions?


Key considerations are indoor/outdoor setting, new or retrofit construction, expected footfall, ability to replace tiles, costs, visibility needs and compliance with standards.


How often should tactile wayfinding solutions be replaced?


With high-quality installation and materials, tactile wayfinding solutions can last 10-15 years with minimal replacement needs beyond periodic replacement of damaged tiles