We tend to focus on the action in sport, but in reality the difficulties experienced by colour blind people can be just as significant away from the action – not least, simply finding their way to the ground, and then locating their seat!
Security becomes an issue at this point too, notably at big events. Given the large numbers of colour blind people that may be attending, it is important to be aware of the external and internal factors that might affect crowd control or safe evacuation procedures.
As a significant number of people, especially men, are colour blind there will be many stewards and emergency services personnel who might also be confused by colour coded information in stadia.
Wayfinding information such as venue maps and signposting, inside and outside stadia events, regularly relies on colour and/or colour coding alone to differentiate. However, information presented in this way is often inaccessible to many colour blind people.
The London Underground Map is a good example of a colour-coded wayfinding map which people with CVD find extremely difficult to follow. The map for the Porto Metro light rail network in Portugal was confusing (see below) but is now much easier for colour blind people to follow since adoption of the ColorAdd code. See Simple Solutions.
For people with CVD, the colour-coded configuration of the Porto Metro map is easier to follow since incorporation of the ColorAdd code.
It can be very frustrating and embarrassing for colour blind people to have to always seek help from stewards or other people to find their way. More importantly, in emergency situations, if a colour blind person is unable to understand a colour-coded map easily, it could have serious repercussions. It’s therefore essential that clubs, associations and federations educate external authorities and third-party stakeholders about the potential dangers. Getting them on board is key to making stadia events safe for people with CVD.
Sports grounds and stadia provide a lot of practical internal wayfinding information that we take for granted, such as stadium plans, seating plans, car-parking information, where to find toilets and bars. The information is presented in a variety of ways – signs on walls, hanging banners, circulation routes, plus details printed on tickets and in match day programmes.
Again, colour often plays a key role – either to differentiate information (seat plans) or to make a sign stand out (a fire exit sign). To be sure that colour-coded information is accessible also to colour blind people, it should also have a secondary form of labelling that does not rely on colours.
Similarly, check that any signage, especially any emergency signs, does not rely on colours that are difficult for colour blind people to see. For example, a green fire exit sign doesn’t stand out against a grey concrete wall for someone with CVD. However, the same sign, mounted onto a bright yellow background, will stand out for colour blind people equally as well as for those with normal vision.
At Tottenham Hotspur FC, the team responsible for the redevelopment of the club’s White Hart Lane stadium has been working closely with Colour Blind Awareness to ensure their new facilities will be fully colour blind friendly as part of their stated ambition to make their new stadium the most accessible in the world.
Colour blindness can cause particular issues for stadium staff. Many people with colour blindness are undiagnosed and therefore may be unaware of information which is obvious to someone with normal colour vision – for example, they may not know if essential equipment is charged and ready for use. Stewards may not be able to fully access information in their stewards’ pack.
Existing stadia can be audited and temporary fixes applied to improve wayfinding, or address problems arising in digital information.
New stadium design can incorporate good practice from the start, such as ensuring architects plans, M&E drawings, signage and other physical features (e.g. paint colour of stair nosings) meet minimum colour contrast standards.
Stadium Facilities Management professionals, in particular, should take a lead to ensure emergency signs and emergency planning routes don’t just rely on colour to convey important safety information. Accreditation systems should also be carefully reviewed.
And why not take it a step further? Review other facilities – for example, toilets (does a cubicle use red and green to indicate occupied or vacant?), advertising hoardings, scoreboards and replay screens… The more inclusive the experience for people with CVD, the more likely they’ll be back.