Guest Blog: Braille Signs in the Workplace

We now live in a world that’s embraced equal opportunities. There are no reasons why people who are blind visually impaired can’t do a wide variety of the jobs that are on offer in today’s business environment. Such workers need a sense of independence whilst at their place of employment, as opposed to having to rely on others to help them find their way around. Braille signs can give those with sight problems a clear picture of not only how to navigate their way around a workspace, but can also alert them to any dangers too.

The Law on Braille Signs

There are two pieces of legislation that have been introduced since the mid 1990s that deal with how braille signs should be used in the workplace. The first of these is the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA), which made it illegal for businesses to treat anyone with any kind of disability, not just the visually impaired, less favourably than other people. This was the first act that made it law for all businesses to create braille or tactyle signs that mirrored their existing signs.

The second piece of legislation is the Equality Act 2010 (EA). This lays out a framework of anti-discrimination rules, expanding on the remit of the DDA. It made employers and businesses put in extra provisions for those with disabilities. For instance, a normally sighted person would not necessarily need a warning sign for a single step up to a doorway out-side a building. However, a blind person could trip on this so it may be appropriate to put a braille sign around such a step if the company employs visually impaired workers.

DDA and EA Audits

The DDA and EA state that special provisions should be made within the workplace so that blind and visually impaired people are not disadvantaged by their disability. When a company takes on a blind worker they must conduct a special audit where an agency works with this person reviewing various aspects of the way in which the company functions. On the basis of this a report is produced that gives guidelines on where and when braille signs should be used throughout the business. It’s often not just a case of converting normal signs into braille signs, but also creating signs for staircases, doors, coffee machines – anything that a normally sighted worker would have no difficulty finding.

Auditing Companies

Most companies do not have the ability to conduct DDA and EA audits off their own back. In these instances they should find a suitable company to work with their visually impaired or blind employee to assess how to best fit braille and tactyle signs. Often companies that manufacture such signs can also provide auditing services – especially those that make bespoke signs as giving the correct advice is a large part of their business. The RNIB hold an extensive list of such companies and can put businesses in contact with one in their local area.

Different Types of Braille Signs

There are two main types of different types of braille signs that can feature in the business environment. These are as follows:

  • Building Signs – These are signs that alert people to various features in a building, such as staircases and toilet facilities. They include the special braille buttons you’ll see in lifts and directional signs that can help blind and visually impaired people navigate a building. 
  • Warning Signs – These signs alert people to all kinds of dangers and the safety measures that have been put in place to protect people within the workplace. Examples include signs that tell people to put on their hard-hats or wear ear protectors as well as fire doors. 

Types of Braille

There are a number of standards for the manufacture of braille signs. These include specific guidelines as to how the braille is set out on a sign and how it is positioned. Signs that relay short messages must use type 1 braille, which is a letter for letter substitution method and signs that have longer messages to convey use type 2 braille. This is a symbol system in its own right that includes characters for common words as well as punctuation marks, allowing the sign maker to condense long phrases into small spaces.

Physical Requirements for Braille Signs

Braille signs must be set out in a certain manner. Normal signs are required to have a tactyle matt finish so that blind and visually impaired people can tell there is a sign on the wall. It is interesting to note that a significant percentage of people with sight problems cannot read braille and thus all signs must have embossed letters that can be scanned by hand in addition to braille. A special indicator, usually semi-circular in shape, is placed on the sign at the same level as the braille symbols, allowing readers to quickly find them. Although there are guidelines for the size and levels of embossing for each symbol there are no stipulations as to what materials are used in the manufacturer of such signs. Businesses are free to make signs out of polished hardwood, chrome or even bronze if they see fit in order to make braille signs fit in with their existing company image.

The Difference made by Braille Signs

The difference that braille signs in the workplace make to blind and visually impaired people cannot be underestimated. For people who have sight problems the world can be a dark and daunting place – braille signs provide them with a vital sense of awareness of their environment and any dangers contained within. In addition to this important information it also gives these people a sense of well-being and relaxation – knowing that their needs are being taken into consideration.

Lee Newell manages online marketing, blogging and social media for the experts in products for business – ESE. The company supplies a range of signs from directional and identification signs for use on doors, warning signs and fire exits. For more information see http://www.esedirect.co.uk/

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