Airplane lavatories can be challenging to navigate for any traveler, but blind people are particularly at a disadvantage because they have to feel around to get an idea for where everything is. And surely no one likes to get their hands dirty from a public bathroom, so a team of designers at Hong Kong Polytechnic University have developed an easy to use system that helps readers of Braille know where everything is once they enter the lavatory.
Special horizontal bars are placed in strategic locations at about waist level that essentially point the reader to the critical points of interest. By sliding fingers along the bars around the perimeter of the lavatory, the visitor will immediately know where all the amenities are without having to touch them to find out. It would seem like the same approach can be standardized for use in a wide variety of places where blind folks may need a bit of extra guidance.
From Hong Kong Polytechnic University:
Travelling and sightseeing are great ways to connect with people. The leader of Public Design Lab in School of Design, Prof. Michael Siu, wanted to make public toilets accessible and comfortable so that the visually impaired people would face less struggles on the go. “Using the toilet in public places is not that straight-forward for the visually impaired. Finding their way around in unfamiliar territory is a big challenge for them. That’s why they would usually avoid using public toilets by not eating and drinking. But it is not healthy,” said Prof. Siu, who has been working with his fellow researchers and the Hong Kong Blind Union since 2000 on products that cater to the special needs of the visually impaired. “Their disability shouldn’t take away their social life and exclude them from society,” said Prof. Siu.
The modern, chic-looking design blends seamlessly into the décor of the cabin lavatory. It means a lot to the visually impaired who work very hard as self-supporting and contributing members of the society and want minimal obstructions to the people around.
More from Hong Kong Polytechnic University: BrailleWise® aircraft toilet Making air travel easier for visually impaired people