Airport Safety Papers & Publications Detail

Indoor Airport Wayfinding for Blind and Visually Impaired Travelers

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Indoor Airport Wayfinding for Blind and Visually Impaired Travelers


By conservative estimates, more than 4 million Americans have impaired vision, with the prevalence rising as the population ages. Wayfinding in complex public spaces, such as airport terminals, poses a major challenge for this group and adversely affects their mobility and quality of life.


Wayfinding refers to the ability to find one’s way to a desired destination. In an airport, critical wayfinding tasks include finding and passing through security, reaching a departure gate, traveling between gates to make a connecting flight, finding the baggage claim and ground transportation (taxi, bus, or rail), and finding relief stations for service animals. These wayfinding tasks must often be accomplished under time pressure. Other important wayfinding tasks include finding bathrooms, restaurants, and ticketing kiosks.


This project had three objectives: (1) to describe the demographics and wide range of visual impairment and wayfinding needs within the target population; (2) to explore challenges and solutions related to specific factors affecting airport wayfinding by visually impaired people; and (3) to develop three types of recommendations for enhancing accessibility of airport terminals: those having a broad consensus and which can be implemented in the near future, those requiring consultation with stakeholders for which alternative solutions need discussion, and those requiring technical research and development.


This technical note identifies best practices and recommendations for potentially viable solutions. This technical note is also intended to encourage discussion and raise questions for a broad audience including Federal Aviation Administration staff, airport administration, airline staff, people with interests in accessible transportation systems, vision rehabilitation specialists, visually impaired travelers, and members of the general public with an interest in accessibility.


Ultimately, solutions could be found through collaboration and consensus among stakeholders. Improved wayfinding and other forms of accessibility within airports require communication and shared responsibility of two major groups—those providing airport services and the users of those services.


Gordon E. Legge, Ph.D., Chris Downey, Nicholas A. Giudice, Ph.D., and Bosco S. Tjan, Ph.D.