As the word speaks for itself, ‘Universal’ means for everyone. It is a fact, that — design cannot completely serve everyone on this globe, it will serve in specific contexts. Within the context, universal design thinking encourages designers to push the boundary of design to ‘include’ more and more ‘types’ of people under the broader umbrella of ‘Universal’. This concept challenges many existing consumer products, public environments and public services that are designed only for users who are ‘fully functional’.
Mumbai Suburban Railway network is an example of a public environment known for overcrowded station environment — complex and diverse station layout. Way finding, a user oriented process, involves cognition, behavior and strategic planning of movement from point A to B. Access to information is vital to all train commuters, including those with disabilities. Poor or complete absence of vision significantly restricts efficient way finding since information display formats on railway stations are mostly visual. Apart from vision loss, issues like familiarity with the environment is another important dimension in way finding research. Low level of familiarity with station and trains further handicaps commuters with vision impairments in a railway station and inside the trains.
Though there are few evidence-based studies on way finding in a real life environments with real life participants, very little research has been conducted in mass transit environments related to economically developing nations like India. Past research in way finding has been either focused on visual impairment or spatial familiarity, separately, and no research conducted to study how level of familiarity and vision impairment together affect way finding behavior.
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