Project: Inclusive Transport Environments: Colour, Design, Lighting and Visual Impairment

Reference: STP 14/6/14

Last update: 15/12/2005 11:27:06


- To determine the problems, in terms of colour design and lighting, encountered by visually impaired and older users of transportation systems.
- Examine the effects that colour design and lighting have on the ambience, efficiency and safety of public transportation environments for the target groups.
- Establish the key functions that colour design and lighting have within transportenvironments and how they can be addressed to improve navigation by older and visually impaired users.
- identify the problems involved with current implementation of design guidance.
- determine, experimentally, how spatial design, colour and luminance contrast, lighting and communication of information and design can assist in the creation of accessible, inclusive environments.
- gather and record information and subjective impressions concerning visually impaired users' experiences of "real world" transport environments.
- examine the potential of Computer Aided Design (CAD) to create simulation and assessment tools for design appraisal, utilising innovative solutions and creating technical developments.
- prepare guidance on colour design and luminance contrast, lighting and communication of information for wayfinding for a modern future integrated transport system.


An earlier study, Project Rainbow, established how blind and partially sighted people search and navigate public access buildings (Bright, Cook & Harris, 1997). The transport environment presents different problems of safety, wayfinding and interaction, For visually impaired and older people lighting and colour design are critical in contributing to the visibility of environments. Improvements in the implementation of design guidance will enhance the performance of transportation systems, encourage inter-modal travel and produce suitable and safe inclusive environments for users. In addition, there is scope for design to improve independent living and have an impact on social inclusion and accessibility (Prophet 1998). Acheiving the project goals for the target group will ensure solutions for all users.


South Bank University
Colour Design Research Centre, 103 Borough Road, London, SE1 0AA
0171 815 8176

Contract details

Cost to the Department: £24,698.00

Actual start date: 01 May 2002

Actual completion date: 30 April 2004


Inclusive Transport Environments: Colour Design, Lighting and Visual Impairment
Author: Hilary Dalke
Publication date: 01/09/2004
Source: Hilary Dalke, Director of the Colour Design Research Centre, South Bank University
More information:

Summary of results

  1. Primarily Wayfinding and Navigation conclusions from the vast amount of information extracted from visually impaired people in this piece of work leading to recommendations could be very useful to professionals aiming to aid the disabled with better design in these ways:
    Actual Signage Design- e.g. positioning, colour, backlighting, colour coding, movement. Lighting precautions and recommendations - e.g. use of natural light to draw people to central areas, which contain information areas and clear route access to different areas of need. Awareness of the effect of surround lighting with issues of glare and shadowing. VIPs fear of low light levels. Other useful 'navigational techniques' used by VIPs - e.g. flooring patterns as indicators of routes/areas, the knowledge that people like to follow walls rather than open spaces (also has an implication for the positioning of information). Although a wide range of VIPs participated in this study, the data collected is by no means exhaustive of issues of importance to this group. This study above all brings to attention the lack of provision to accommodate the difficulties people face and would suggest that further investigation into specific areas such as colour combination preferences would be extremely useful. It is hoped that this work will encourage and support design professionals to 'design for all' so that public areas can be used without fear. The questionnaire revealed that only 28% of visually impaired people felt confident in the Underground. This involves finding the right pathway for information to be communicated and implemented throughout the relevant bodies of design and training expertise. The ultimate aim of discovering and using this type of information is to achieve a public space that functions effectively for all people. One of the really important recommendations from the research is that progress can be achieved at virtually no more cost than normal. The knowledge from this work can be communicated effectively to designers and architects and will be implemented economically for maximum benefit to all travellers especially elderly and visually impaired people.

    From Advisory panel meeting discussions with organisations such as the Department of Transport, Centre for Accessible Environments and The Building Centre Trust, the training and education of tomorrows' transport environment designers and developers too is a future key strategy for the teams involved in this programme. For example Reading University are already running a successfid CPI) course MSc Inclusive Environments: Design and Management and The Colour Design Research Centre has commenced a new role at Kingston University with access to a considerable number of young talented architects and designers; during the past 12 months the extensive range of conference talks and seminars given by the programme team members has shown us that there is major interest in the results of this work, to be disseminated initially in a guidance document.

Departmental Assessment Status: Assessed by FIT Programme Advisory Group 15 July 2004. Allocated score 7/10 - Very good project, achieved targets and objectives, good quality research work, outputs with commercial potential.