Here’s how blind people find braille signs

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New buildings that I’ve worked in are starting to be even more nightmarish for those with accessibility needs.

I recently did electrical work in one skyscraper with destination dispatch. Instead of up/down/floor buttons, it used a flat-panel touch display and menu to directly enter your floor number. If someone with a visual impairment wants to use it, they press an untextured button with a wheelchair symbol printed on it. This starts a recorded voice which reads out each floor number… “B3 B2 B1 Ground Rez d’Chausée One Un Two Deux Three Trois…” and the button had to be pressed again to stop the count and call the elevator. It took several minutes to get to the top floors, and if you miss the spot in the recording to hit the button there is no way to go back, and you can’t pick another floor once in the car. To make matters worse, it had never been programmed properly so it would call out extra floors that aren’t in the building, and when you board the elevator after floor selection the voice inside the car would say “This elevator is out of service” instead of “This car going up to floor x.”

An absolute nightmare. Don’t get me started on the unmarked stairs and the accessibility lift behind a barricade wall requiring an a key from an attendant at a desk on the other side of the stairs.


“I don’t know where you put it to make it better …”

Having designed and installed thousands of such signs, he’s hit it right on the head. The ADA guidelines are only that - guidelines. A good designer and a good building manager need to work together. Consistent policy helps, as does common sense. Sometimes it calls for redundant signage, sometimes they just end up behind a door. In the case of the double doors in the video, I would be tempted to put one on each side, where he found it and where he expected it to be. Nothing will keep him from getting hit with an out-swinging door - except maybe a sign on the inside of the door: “Opens to hallway, please use care”

Sign design is a satisfying job, but long-haired freaky people need not apply.


Excellent points made in the video, but I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was Edison’s sense of humor or the camera operator’s…right near the beginning, there’s a shot of the Braille sign for the “umpires room”.


Well doors have to open outwards if the room(s) that they access can hold 250+ people. preventing them from opening out into the hallway is largely why people design them to be “recessed” into a little alcove. Perhaps the sign should go in the hallway, next to the alcove. That makes the sign more visible as well as more accessible for the blind, although it make is ambiguous* to the blind. Perhaps an arrow pointing to the door would remove the ambiguity, and make it easier for somebody going down the hall so that they didn’t have to check every alcove.

*the ambiguity here is that if the sign is placed on a corner, which direction is it intended to indicate? A sighted person can easily assume that it indicates the closest door and not the hallway.

Well I am glad someone addressed my question to “how useful are half the braille signs I see”.

It looks like “not very” in a lot of cases, though honestly they are probably more useful than I gave them credit for.

If I have to lose a sense, please don’t let it be sight. Thanks.


I wonder how helpful/feasible some sort of audio AR could be. Something like museum audio tours, but instead of information about exhibits, you’d hear doors and elevators and such announcing themselves in the distance, getting louder as you get closer to them.

Hell, might as well make up some exhibits while you’re at it.

“Let’s go behind this huge door and feel what the braille sign says… D… U… C… K… Duck?” SLAM

All of the braille signs in the video are co-located with the visual signs. The problem seems to be that the best locations for the braille signs and the best locations for the visual signs are often different.



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