Signage that is effective benefits everyone. It also enables people with visual impairments, deaf people and people with learning difficulties to use the environment as independently as possible.

Smart, clear and effective signage

It is within your best interests to adopt ‘good practice’ when replacing any signs, therefore fulfilling your obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act to provide auxiliary aids.

Visual impairment is one of the most common impairments that people in the UK face. It is estimated that there are around 2 million people with some significant level of visual impairment. We need to ensure that the environment that we provide is as accessible as possible, which includes providing signage in a form that visually impaired people can use.

It is of little consequence to sighted people what colour a sign is or whether it is embossed or contains Braille. However it makes the world of difference to a visually impaired person.

Blue and white or reversed
For signs to work they have to be clear, concise and consistent. They should be only used when necessary. Think about what information you need to convey. Could some of it be on a notice board and just have the important information that is needed on a set of clear well thought out signs? Or could other information be given further along the route to make the initial sign clearer?

There are several types of signs including:

Information signs
These are the signs that people use to orientate themselves when they first reach a building: name sign, car park, entrance and the main locations within the buildings.

Directional signs
Enable people to find destinations and often include arrows or other directional text. In large buildings they may contain more than one location and care should be taken to ensure that the directional arrows are easily read.

Identification signs
These are used for individual locations and usually indicate a particular room or service.

Mandatory signs
These include the essential signs such as fire exits, warning signs etc. They are covered by British Standards and the correct prescribed sign should always be used.

The language of signs
What is said on a sign and how it appears is very important.

  • Use words that are readily understood;
  • Avoid abbreviations which are difficult for visually impaired people and people with learning difficulties;
  • Be consistent with the terminology;
  • Only give as much information as is needed at that point in time, supplementary signs can be used further along the route if necessary;
  • But also ensure that the meaning is conveyed and not mislead through trying to make the sign too concise