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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Architecture for the visually impaired

Hi everyone, I am an architecture student currently working on my thesis project. My topic is on how architecture is interpreted by those who are blind and those with visual impairments. I would like to learn how a blind person perceives architecture. Is it through the other senses? how? I would like to understand what the built environment means to those people and how they can appreciate architecture.

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Re:Architecture for the visually impaired

Hi, I'm Sia Jose, and I'm a Second Year Architecture student in India. Me and a friend of min are doing a dissertation on the topic Architecture for the blind and it would be a great help if anybody will be able to guide us in the right direction. i know this post is quite old, but please if any one of you happens to come across this, pleas spare a moment for us. Thank you! My email is

Re:Architecture for the visually impaired

thanks tlavelle for these responses, they are extremely articulate and have hugely helped me with the start of my thesis investigation stage. i would be great if i could get more info off you as you have a huge understanding of how you interpret spaces and how they work for you. could you please post more info or could you email me at

Anna, from Germany

Welcome to my new gallery>

Re:Architecture for the visually impaired

hi m an architectural student in JU also i have project institution for blind people so i need information from ur theses also plz what was ur main approach and what u depend on ur design plz answer me if u can
thank u so much

Re:Architecture for the visually impaired

I have done a thesis on sensory and design for the visually impaired. My final project is an art center for public and the visually impaireed. So, if anybody needs information or wants to discuss about design for the visually impaired, please feel free to contact me at my email

Re:Architecture for the visually impaired

me madhuri again
forgot my mail id

Re:Architecture for the visually impaired

im madhuri a student of architecture
well im doing my project based on the suitable architecture and environment for blind people where they can recreates themselves so i wanted to have information on the type of architecture and spaces the blind people perseve if any institute is done on the related concept i m looking for the similar casestudies also please mail me on my address if anybody is having any information regarding the topic i have taken its a request u will be very helpfull to me

Re:Architecture for the visually impaired

hi tlavelle!
i know your article is quite old, but i still find it wothwhile answering. i am an interior architect, so my vision is more than fine. but buildings schould work for everybody, and as i am trying to gather informations, i am finding out there are almost non! how can that be !therefor i loved how you dscribed what you like in a room! i think simply having a leading strile on the floor running though the enrire building does not do much?! but it seems to be the fashion rightnow. if you should check back on this page, it would be nice if you could sent me liks with heplfull hints or simply examples of buildings done right. than you so much!

Re:Architecture for the visually impaired

To Charmaine

Check out Making Print More Readable at

The most important thing is contrast. I know a number of people who prefer yellow o black to any other combination. Red and other bright colors would probably also work better on black. Subtlety doesn't work but then kids don't like subtlety anyway.

Good luck with your project,

Re:Architecture for the visually impaired

I am in my last year at school and I have to produce an alphabet book for visually impaired children as part of my exam. I was just wondering if any particular colours stood out better for those with some sort of visual impediment.
Thanks alot.

Re:Architecture for the visually impaired

i am a final year architecture student.I am working on a thesis for designing an institute for deafblind and blind people, concentrating on acoustical treatment and spatial proportions of the built space that would help the disabled to experience the spaces with less assistive technologies.I am finding it tough to justify my study. can anyone help me with relevent sources? thanx

Re:Architecture for the visually impaired

Well I do hope it was helpful. Good lick and if u have any more questions do ask them

Re:Architecture for the visually impaired

Thanks a lot tlavelleon! The information you gave me was very interesting and useful.

Re:Architecture for the visually impaired

First off I think you and everyone that is sighted needs to understand the whole process in how we interpret our world. It is a multitude of things that we use to see our world. We have to process what we hear, smell and feel into mental images of what
is that is seen with the visual sense and visual part of the brain.
There are also many different stages of blindness from total darkness to some sight but not enough. How we see color is also different. Some color combos can’t be seen by us because we can not see color tones or hues like a sighted person.

The old phrase or thought that when a sense goes the others increase is a misconception. It is not that they increase it is that we are more aware of them and utilize them more. You know we as humans do not use a large part of our brains and so it is with our senses. We are visually dependent until it lessons then we learn to use our other senses more. Also keep in mind our mind is always on and so are our senses and we can get what we call “sensory overload”. We do get motion sickness easier due to the fact of all the information coming into our brain to process and sort. I have to learn to shut off my ears as I call it because the more crowded an area is the more we tend to want to get away because we hear and smell everything.

Open spaces are a double edge sword for us. Open space gives us a sense of freedom and on the other hand it can be too noisy for us. Sound is a primary source of our world.

Inside rock walls tend to muffle the sound which isn’t a help for us.
Brick seems to be a little better
High ceilings make the rooms sound huge.
Wood paneling seems to hold the noise out. If I am in the laundry room which has a wood wall around it I have a hard time hearing what is being said to me from the other room. And this is hard to do because my loved ones say I can hear the grass grow.

My preferences are rooms that aren’t too small because I feel restricted and enclosed. Feeling trapped is the best way I can describe it.

I like walls with some texture because then I can feel it and get a sense of what it looks like through that sense.

Lighting is very important when designing for the visually impaired. It depends on the person to much light can hurt and not enough makes it to dark. Fluorescent lights are glaring and annoying for us.

In a utopia each building would have a plaque describing the building for us.

The outside can be sensed with hearing and description. We can hear the wind blow off the building and sense the size of it that way. I tend not to like the smooth glass and steel because it sounds very hallow and cold. I can hear it creak and moan and groan. I listen for how the wind or breeze flows around an older structure and I can then sense the little crevices and hallows.
I am still learning about my world through lose of sight. I feel that the more questions I ask then I can learn how different things sound.

We need landmarks to know where we are and what is where. Such as a low row of planters near the stairs or wind chimes near the doors. Remember not to clog up the walkways with things because we may trip or bump into them. Runners help a lot inside and out so we are warned of an upcoming door. Railings on both sides of the stairs because depending on if we are right or left handed depends which hand we hold our cane or dog so we need the other on the railing.

We hear glass creak so large windows look nice however it is just another noise we have to process.

Unfortunately architecture and museums are not very sense accessible for us. We can get into them and there are handicapped entry ways and Braille on the elevators however to be able to touch is frowned on and we are told to back up if we have to get closer to see it. Braille plaques with descriptions would be helpful or verbal tapes describing the objects.

Hope I answered your questions and please ask more if you have more.

Check these web sights for articles for you

Re:Architecture for the visually impaired

I dont mind at all. I enjoy trying to explain anything about blindness. If I may I will need some time to think about these answers because they are not easily explained and I want to be percise in my answers If you wish emailing me may be easer and you may do so if u wish

Re:Architecture for the visually impaired

thank you tlavelleon!
i really appreciate your help and your time. i hope you don't mind that i have a few more questions. you mentioned that you can hear how spacious and deep a room is and i wonder if the materials have an distinc effect on your perception of the room. also, what is an exterior space to you? what do you enjoy the most about interior and exterior spaces? is there anything that you particularly enjoy? or hate to encounter?
once again a million thanks!

Re:Architecture for the visually impaired

Without knowing specific questions I can give you some of what I see certain things. To be honest and not meaning this to be insulting it is hard to explain this to a sighted person. I can only give you how I see things not others we all have our own way. There will be simularities but techniques and perceptions will be different. I use my sense of touch alot. I am always touching things and asking what color they are. I use to be sighted then went to color blindness then dark/ I have a memory of color so it is easier for me then someone that has never seen colors.
I also can hear how spacious an area is or how deep it is or has windows or not. I feel wind coming in through doors or windows. I ask a olot of questions and rely on others discriptions. That may loose what exactly the structure looks like but it is alll we have. We use our senses and memories most and imaginations. The acostics in a room or outside has a lot to do with our perception also. Excuse the mis spelled words I am tired. Hope this helps some

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