In large buildings such as hotels, shopping centres and multi-storey car parks multiple levels can look very similar which creates the potential for confusion. Using a variety of colours to differentiate between areas or levels of a building, known as ‘colour coding’, is an ideal way to help visitors identify where they are and find their way around easily.
Colour coding can also help users find and reach specific areas of a building or identify a change of level while highlighting the edge of a stair tread with a strong colour can help distinguish steps.
Accessibility for everyone
An important design consideration for any building is how easily and safely partially-sighted people can navigate around relatively unaided and as many partially-sighted people rely on visual clues for navigation, colour schemes play a key part in this. It’s vital that colours not only complement each other but also provide the required level of tonal contrast.
Contrast can be determined by the Light Reflective Values (LRVs) of each colour, which relates to the amount of visible light that is reflected when illuminated by a light source. On a scale from 0 to 100, where zero is assumed to be an absolute black and 100 to be a perfectly reflective white (white paint has a LRV of 90), it is recommended that there is a difference of approximately 30 points between the colours.
This is especially important for critical surfaces such as floors, doors and walls that are adjacent to one another to enable partially-sighted people to distinguish between areas in a room. Ensuring there’s enough colour contrast between walls and floors helps partially-sighted people clearly perceive the direction of the walkway while contrast between the walls and ceiling will allow them to better understand the size and height of the room. Handrails should also be clearly visible so need to be chosen to contrast with the colour of the walls.
By carefully considering colour schemes and how they impact on all users it’s possible to create inclusive environments that embrace the concept of access for all without compromising the interior design of a building.