Braille was developed by the young French boy Louis Braille in 1825 as a result of loosing his sight in an accident at the age of just four.
First displayed and demonstrated in 1851 at the World Exhibition in Germany, Braille was not widely used until 1918, 56 years after Louis’ death. Today Braille is a universal language for people who are blind and who have low vision. This touch system is now taught to children and adults all over the world enabling them the equal right, pleasure and necessity to the communicative language of reading and writing; and fundamentally, access to the built environment. Safeguarding the rights of people who are blind or who have low vision to equal access, the Disability Discrimination Act, became law on March 1 1993.
‘Accessibility’ is a widespread term used to describe the degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to as many people as possible. A mandatory provision in all public spaces, buildings and transport, Braille and tactile signs are essential for people who are blind or have low vision. Enabling access to education, employment and all forms of social participation, the Equal Opportunity Act stipulates a violation of international human rights should these provisions be breached.
Wayfinding signage can be seen today in so many applications, on walls and doors, on directory signs, at transport stops, on moving vehicles, and beyond. Custom made for specific purposes and situations, signs are designed to suit endless applications, with colour and graphic aesthetics to complement. It is essential that all Australian standards, building codes and related criteria are met in the design, manufacture and installation of Wayfinding products. These specifications ensure the correct Braille dome, letter and tactile heights, amongst many other requirements; importantly luminosity. Referring to the difference between dark and light properties and not to be mistaken for colour contrast, luminance contrast can be picked up most easily by people with low vision.
With a minimum of 30% contrast, the luminance must occur between the tactile graphics and the signs background, as well as the sign and its mounted surface. The tactile component allows those with low vision, who may have lost their sight prior to, or without the knowledge of Braille, to successfully negate their path to services and resources, as easily as a sighted person. While both the international symbol for access, (the wheelchair symbol) and the audio symbol are required to be white on ultramarine blue, any colour combination is allowed for all other graphics, providing they comply with these luminosity requirements.
A continuous surface is essential for all Braille and tactile signs making them ideal for all indoor and outdoor applications. Guaranteeing these products are encapsulated excludes potential damage to their graphics and colour, ensuring the signs are never compromised by vandals. Being a continuous membrane (with no add-ons in the form of inserted Braille and graphics, implying nothing can be removed) assure its vital readability, longevity and aesthetic endurance. Elements of the environment, cleaning products, graffiti and alike, can be safeguarded against with some signs specially sealed with an anti-graffiti and UV stabilised coating, protecting the sign for its lifetime.
With 300,000 Australians who are blind or have low vision, authorities expect that this figure will double by 2020 as a result of the aging baby boomer population. Preparation is underway to ensure access is adequate and suitable for this increasing number.
Blindness has numerous common causes, from cataracts and glaucoma to diabetic retinopathy, but it is most certainly macula degeneration, which is primarily age related, that is the leading cause. Low vision can be caused by a number of different diseases, conditions or accidents. Some eye conditions are congenital, (present at, or near birth) others are caused by a disease, infection or through exposure to UV rays or chemicals.
Of the 314 million people worldwide who have a vision impairment, 87% live in developing countries, making it the most common impairment worldwide. With such staggering figures it is comforting to see that the world is increasingly becoming aware, and certainly a more accessible and safer place for all.
Braille Tactile Signs