The striking graphic floor tiles of Edmonton International Airport compliment the terminal’s distinctive modern appearance, but they’re far more beautiful than that. What might appear to other passengers as a decorative contrast of graduated color tiles, was designed to help visually impaired passengers better judge the distance to their gate.
“Some Visually-Impaired passengers may have poor depth perception,” explains Heather Hamilton, Spokesperson for Edmonton International Airport. “They can’t judge the distance to their gate with a long monochrome flooring in the terminal hall. The distance varied tiles of the floor we installed, with its skinny strips graduated along the length of the terminal, let’s you focus your eye on the lower shelfs and better judge the distance to the check-in counters. The two different color insets of grey and blue also make it easier to judge the distance ahead.”
The decision to install this unique feature is part of Edmonton International Airport’s social commitment to travelers and to the local community. “We met with members of the community to get feedback on how we could improve our Terminal for all passengers,” says Hamilton. Helping passengers with limited depth-perception find their way through the Terminal better was one of the suggestions which came out of these meetings. “We have the same pattern worked into the carpet in our office tower. In the office carpet, the texture carpet and the height of the pile serve the same purpose.”
Awareness is growing in the travel sector, including at airports and airlines, about the importance of Universal Design. This is design which considers the needs of all and makes products and environments attractive, functional and accessible. Think OXO.
Laurel Van Horn, Director of Programs and Editor for the Open Doors Organization, and the former executive director of SATH (Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality), is an advocate of design which meets the needs of all travelers. The mission of the Open Doors Organization is to share insights into the needs of elderly and disabled travelers, targeting areas of improvement and carrying out accessibility initiatives. As she explains, airport terminals are actively looking for ways to ensure passengers with disabilities and the elderly can better navigate our ever-expanding international terminal cities.
“Without a question, airports around the world are becoming more and more accessible,” Van Horn says. “This is true even in countries where little accessibility exists outside the airport. But are they becoming more usable or functional, especially as they grow in size? Most people who need wheelchair assistance in airports never use a wheelchair in their everyday lives but they can’t manage those huge distances. Even those who can manage the walk may need an escort to find their gate because the way-finding and signage is so complex in these huge, multi-level terminals. This is where Universal Design can play a role.”