Whilst many locations and venues these days have made great efforts to improve the accessibility of routes, research has shown that there are still significant problems faced by those with disabilities and who are accessibility challenged.

In interviews I was involved with for an academic paper on wayfinding, a classic example provided was of an airport providing special assistance services such as guiding wheelchair users through the airport and to the plane successfully.

The issue in this instance though occurred when collecting the wheelchair the other side with the chair broken. Staff are rarely trained in how to open, close and manage wheelchairs, causing damage and making the overall journey from A to B problematic for the traveller.

In another example from an experience at a major airport, the issue is of not allowing the husband to accompany his wife (who uses a wheelchair) through the special assistance area, caused great stress for the couple involved. As elderly travellers, they reported that this was traumatic and that they will never use that airport again.

Airports and many other locations are making much greater efforts than in the past, to make routes from A to B an experience that is safe, a positive user experience and that meets legal requirements to provide equal for all users.

Thus there is much room for optimism. There are though so many issues that still exist along the routes we take in public places and that disabled users I talk to, still feel need great improvement.

In the UK (DDA) and United States (ADA) legislation is aimed at trying to ensure that everyone, no matter who they are, have the same ability to access public locations and to not be unfairly disadvantaged. So in many countries, we in fact have a legal obligation not to discriminate against others,when it comes to how we manage public locations.

In our research findings, based around wayfinding (how we get between A and B), it soon become clear that there is so much that even small venues and places can improve and with little effort.

Are you in charge, for example, of the website for an attraction, museum, airport or any location? The provision of up-to-date directions and information for where to find special assistance in your location is more useful than you may think. We found that the information on many venue websites is often out-of-date and the postcodes (Zip codes) are often incorrect and this alone can create undue stress, particularly for disabled travellers.

Likewise, you might be running a local church, pub or shop. Do you check to ensure that any obstacles are cleared and that overhanging branches and shrubbery are kept clear so that all users have easy access? Do you provide an inexpensive wooden ramp for wheelchair users to navigate small steps? In other words, could you do anything more and without the need for too much effort, to make your location more accessible?

Understanding wayfinding and how to make locations accessible friendly is often far easier than one might at first expect, yet the changes can be significant from the perspective of accessibly challenged users.

Whilst topics such as mental awareness have gained a lot of news coverage in the last few years, accessibility for all users is a topic that still seems to improve slowly. Indeed, many of the same problems that existed 20 years ago, still arise on a quotidian bases.

Some changes that are needed come down to architectural design and thus it is at a higher-level that wayfinding and accessibility also needs to be better understood.

Imagine the scenario whereby a lift for elderly users takes these users away from the main through-fare in a location. An escalator (moving stairs) that takes a user up one-level of a building, should take a user close to the same exit point location as the exit point of lift.

In the same way, a wheelchair user should never be unfairly inconvenienced with a wheelchair ramp taking them too far off the beaten track and along a route that is too far from other others.

Training on disability access and wayfinding is available through companies such as travelwayfinding.com and is certainly worth considering. Such training includes how to understand how to do a wayfinding audit, an audit that will enable you or a member of your team, to evaluate what you can do in your location to improve accessibility for all.

Author's Bio: 

Dr Valeria Lo Iacono is the co-founder of Symonds Training & Research which provides training course materials for freelance trainers, including a trainers DDA course. Valeria has been published academically on the subject of wayfinding.