Inclusive Design, Providing Accessibility Through Visual Design for People who are Blind

I concluded my thesis studies  on Inclusive Design this summer and have finally received my MFA in Graphic Design! As previously mentioned, this research considers the need for designers to provide access for people who are blind, the relevant conditions for access, and the processes of production for creating design that offers simultaneous access to those with sight and those without. Issues of access for an independent lifestyle are examined through research and primary accounts in the form of interviews. This information provides a platform to begin to understand the barriers for the blind and the understanding of human senses that is vital to the advancement of accessible design.

If you are interested, you can download the full document as a PDF (3.5MB).

Visual Thesis

The following graphics are intended to assist people who are blind and seek to live an autonomous lifestyle by shopping independently. Comprehension of the information assumes that the individual understands Braille and is familiar with tactile techniques that indicate shape and space planning(These types of communicative devices are commonly taught to people who are blind. The majority of educational aids for children rely on embossed shapes for learning.). My research revealed three barriers to the traditional retail environment: the necessity of assistance by others and potential issues that are presented by that need, wayfinding suspended from the ceiling, and the confusing arrangement of items on a shelf. The following case study offers solutions to all three issues.


The main barrier to independence is that the physical environment provides no cues for navigation. The wayfinding suggested here offers a solution for the current problems. By adding additional wayfinding to the end-caps of each aisle, in addition to the hanging signage, it is possible to allow for tactile communication. In addition to information provided on each aisle, a store map at the entrance would provide an overview of the store arrangement and identification of where to find specific items.


Many brands and varieties have similar packaging that shares the same shape and weight. This similarity makes it difficult to distinguish one item from another by touch alone. The additional costs and necessary space for the application of all pertinent information make it unlikely that all manufacturers would add Braille to their packaging. A solution to this issue is to include price scanners at the ends of each aisle that would both display visually and read audible product information and pricing.


The preceding issues are the main barriers to shopping without assistance from another person. By addressing those issues, assistance would no longer be necessary.

Entrance Map

Most grocery stores have two sets of doors with a small area between. A map of the store would be placed in this area. No obstructions, such as carts or displays, should come between the map and the entrance. A clear path for walking up to the map is necessary for the Braille to be touched.

Within the map, each section of the store is represented with an icon that will be used again throughout the store on related navigational graphics. Each aisle has an icon, label, and number. The aisle outline is embossed to indicate shape both visually and by touch. The icons similarly have an embossed outline.

Entrance Map Placement

Placement: The map placed just inside right of the entrance will provide trouble-free accessibility.

Entrance Map Design

Entrance Map Design

End Caps

Informational panels are designed to flank the sides of the end cap, allowing products to continue to occupy the space facing the outer aisles. The panels will have the same icon as the store map to indicate the aisle number and product type. The center portion has the aisle number with embossed outline to indicate the shape of the aisle icon. Inside the embossed area is Braille indicating the aisle name. On each side of the aisle are listing of the contents found on that side. The side labels, left and right, are also printed in the event that a person who is blind needs to ask a question about where to locate an item.

Also present is the price scanner. An embossed rectangle below the scanner indicates an area where a barcode can be scanned. Though the exact location of the barcode on a package may be unknown, but moving the product around a scan should easily be achieved. To the left of the scanner is Braille with instructions to place an item in front of the embossed box to hear the item’s name and price.

End Cap Placement

Placement: Person shows relative scale at a height of 5’7”, above average height for a female. Braille and scanner are still easily within comfortable range. Photo by Chris Floyd

End Cap Design

End Cap Design

Exploded View of End Cap

This exploded view shows the aisle outline with Braille descriptions. Inside the aisle is the label “Breakfast Foods”. Above is a listing of items found on the left side of the aisle and below is a list of items found on the right side of the aisle. The price scanner is shown with embossed box for indicating scan area below.

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