The choice of colours in your office doesn’t just help make the space more enjoyable, it can also play a key role in making the working environment more accessible for all.

As Building recently discussed, colour choice can affect how successfully those with visual impairments can navigate the building. A clever colour scheme can add to the aesthetic, and meet the needs of visually impaired staff and visitors.

Importance of colour and contrast

With three quarters of information about our environment coming through vision, sight is our most important sense. However, it is estimated that there are around two million people in the UK living with some form of visual impairment, and this number is only set to increase over the next 25 years due to the ageing population.

As a result, understanding the effects colour can have on a space and its occupants is becoming increasingly important.

Building recommends comparing colours side-by-side on the same background and considering factors such as light, contrast, surface texture, as well as subjective considerations. Contrast and light are particularly important, with 96% of those registered blind in the UK being able to detect some light, therefore, incorporating these two aspects into design can boost people’s spatial awareness.

Colour schemes

The main colour schemes that are both complementary and assist those with visual impairments, include:

● Tonal — Often simple and classic, tonal schemes use lighter and darker shades of the same colour
● Harmonising — More interesting and versatile, harmonising schemes involve two or more colours sat next to each other on the artist’s colour wheel
● Contrasting — For a dramatic and exciting look, a contrasting colour scheme uses colours that are opposite each other on the artist’s colour wheel

Considerations

When it comes to gathering information to understand the size and dimensions of a space, critical surfaces such as doors, skirting, general obstacles, furniture and lighting play a key role and require a colour contrast.

Designers should, therefore, consider the following:

● Doors — Have the whole door and architrave visually contrasting to the surrounding surfaces and ensure handles and finger plates are a different colour to the door itself.
● Skirting — If skirting is a similar colour to the floor, the eyes will focus on the top of the skirting and the wall, making the space look wider than it actually is. However, having skirting the same colour as the wall will give an accurate indication of the floor size, as visual contrast will be seen between the floor and the bottom of the skirting.
● General obstacles and furniture — Make sure furniture contrasts to surrounding areas, consider stair nosings in a solid colour that is different to the colour of the stairs, and ensure the handrail is a different from the supporting wall.
● Lighting — Some offices have more natural light than others but poor lighting can impact the colour and contrast. Lighting can also cause glare and shadows, and it is worth bearing this in mind when designing your space.

If you want to turn your office into an enjoyable and accessible working environment, call Kerr today.