When designing new buildings, extensions, or refurbishments, it is important to consider the needs of those with a level of visual impairment.
In the UK there are currently over 2 million people with some level of sight loss that impacts daily living, for example, these people may be unable to drive. That’s almost 3% of the population and the number is expected to rise to almost 4 million people with sight loss by 2050.
The majority of these people are those in the older age ranges with 20% of all those over the age of 75 and 50% of all those over the age of 90 years, suffering from some level of visual impairment.
As the population ages, more and more people suffer sight impairment which often goes hand-in-hand with being less mobile.
Most visually impaired people are not totally blind and can sense some level of light/dark contrasts.
The way visually impaired people move around is also different to sighted people and needs to be accommodated. On entering a space, the visually impaired person will tend to pause to asses the area and to adjust to differing light levels. They will attempt to make sense of the area and identify surfaces and obstacles. When they start to move they focus downwards and scan the area immediately in front of them for obstacles.
To cater for this group of people, it is vital to use colour contrasts to help with spatial awareness.
Colour contrast is determined using Light Reflectance Value (LRV).
An LRV value of 0 is where there is no light reflectance at all. This is absolute black.
In reality, these extremes are not practicable
and brilliant white will tend to return an LRV of about 85.
An LRV value of 100 is where all the light is reflected. This is absolute white.
The actual colour is not relevant as the scale measures light reflectance. Totally different colours can have the same, or very similar, LRVs and appear to be the same to colour blind and visually impaired people. See the below examples from the CS Acrovyn range:
The Equality Act states there must be equal accessibility for all regardless of disability. This means buildings must be designed to allow blind and partially sighted users to move around safely and without risk.
BS 8300 and Approved Document M detail the specifics for colour contrast values, recommending a difference of at least 30 points between contrasting surfaces. Where the lighting is bright, with an illuminance greater than 200 Lux, a 20 point difference in colour contrast LRVs may be acceptable.
Wherever surfaces and function change, a colour contrast can highlight the differences in surface for the users, examples being:
- Door faces and/or door frames to walls
- Floors to walls
- Walls to ceilings
- Obstructions such as corners and pillars
- Handrails to walls
- Sanitary fixings to walls
- Stair treads to risers
Specifying wall coverings/finishes of one colour and handrails, wall protection barriers, doors, door edges and corner protection of contrasting colours will make them stand out, be more easily noticeable by all users and satisfy the legislation.
BS 8300 also states that large patterns with bold contrasting colours should be avoided for wall finishes where visual acuity is critical, as they may distort the perception of distance for partially sighted people.
In addition, both BS 8300 and Approved Document M identify problems with reflective wall surfaces for those with visual impairment.
Wall protection and colour contrasts can also be used to signpost different areas and provide wayfinding solutions. This will be covered in more detail in a future article.
The Acrovyn Wall Protection range is designed to meet the guidance requirements as specified in BS 8300 and Approved Document M.
Available in up to 27 different colours (with a wide spectrum of LRV values) and several different finish options, it can meet visual contrast requirements without having to compromise on design and aesthetics.
LRV Compliant Acrovyn Colour Contrast Examples
CS Acrovyn provides designers and facility owners with a comprehensive selection of solutions, enhancing and protecting any interior.
Through-coloured and impact resistant Acrovyn Sheet provides a tough, durable, and easy to clean finish for interior walls, doors and receptions desks. Our sheet can even incorporate high quality imagery and graphics, enabling you to create unique and striking designs.
Robust Acrovyn Profiles such as handrails, crashrails and corner guards protect walls and corners from damage.
Here’s a quick reminder of the areas of the building which require consideration along with how the relevant Acrovyn products can be applied for compliance.
1. Obstructions in corridors or entrance lobbies, such as columns, which should be protected with visually contrasting materials.
This can be achieved by applying Acrovyn sheet protection, rubrails, crash rails or corner guards in contrasting colours. Alternatively, a handrail could be utilised to steer pedestrians and wheelchair users around the obstacle.
2. Handrails where the colour should be sufficiently different from the background wall colour.
Acrovyn handrails are available in 27 colours and also meet all the dimensional requirements outlined in the Approved Document M.
3. Doors and frames should have sufficient contrast with each other and surrounding walls to be easily visible when closed.
All Acrovyn door and frame protection solutions can be supplied in any of the 30 solid Acrovyn colours, as well as Faux Wood and Faux Metal finishes.
- The Equality Act 2010 (incorporating the Disability Discrimination Act 1995) – View Document
- BS 8300-2:2018 Design of an Accessible and Inclusive Built Environment Part 2: Buildings Code of Practice – View Document
- Building Regulations Approved Document M: Access to and Use of Buildings – View Document
- Royal National Institute of Blind People – Visit Website