Path System’s Way Finding gets a Failing Grade Says OPC

Ever wonder if a city’s streets, a rural path, a ski hill or an underground pedestrian area has good way finding? The answer is easier than you think and we chose the PATH system in Toronto’s underground as a great case study; for poor way finding.
The question to ask is two fold; ask someone who has not been at that location if they found the system easy to use? Did they get lost?
Now ask someone who uses the system with some frequency (not daily) if they find the system to be user friendly and to prevent them from getting disoriented if and when they take an alternate route than usual?
Oh and one more question to ask, afterall we do not have the AODA in fully swing for Ontario; ask the same questions of the end user who has a visual impairment; ask someone with a mobility impairment; and then ask the same questions of someone with a cognitive impairment or learning disability.

This test can be made easier however by asking someone without any impairment or disability at all to respond to question 1 and 2. The reason you do not have to pose the question to people with disabilities is the following; if the system does not work for individuals with no disability then it certainly will not work at all for indviduals with a disability.

A survey we take during discussions about the AODA and to clients includes asking about Way Finding, specifically in the PATH System.  The Survey is as follows;
1, For those of you who travelled downtown to attend this seminar and do not walk in the underground system with any frequency, did you get lost?
2. For those of you who use the system 1 time per week or less but with some frequency, how did you find the PATH system? Do you ever get lost or disoriented when walking this system?

The responses over the last 5 years have shown;
%
%
%
%

Why is this so? Look at colour of the PATH sign; with grey background? Is this correct?
Size of sign
Location of the signs
Type of lettering; what font
Size of letters
Raised letters
Any landmarks underground to match the landmarks immediately over head?
Broken down into distinct zones or neighbourhoods
Colour used?
Single language used

What are the implications for poor Way Finding?
Employees, contractors, consultants who cannot find their way
Decreased numbers of potential customers passing by retail & restaurants
Tourist friendly?

To quote an expert in the area of Way Finding Sasner Bauman

design philosophy

  • 1. Do not make them think
    Create a comprehensive, clear information and communication system with concise messaging.
  • 2. Show only what is needed
    Only show the information what is relevant to the user, environment, location and / or navigation path.
  • 3. Remove excessive information
    Remove unnecessary elements to create a clear visual environment ahead.

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