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Making Aircraft Lavatory Accessible To Blind People

  • Written by Roberto Castiglioni

Designed by Professor Michael Siu of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the BrailleWise concept makes the aircraft lavatory accessible to blind people.


Going to the lavatory on an aircraft may seem one of the easiest tasks on earth; however things dramatically change for the worse if you do it with your eyes closed. People with visual impairments rely on touch to orientate themselves in unknown places. Needless to say, a lavatory in operation does not provide the most hygienic environment for tactile orientation.


Professor Michael Siu, Leader of Public Design Lab, PolyU School of Design addressed the problem developing the BrailleWise concept. BrailleWise is easy to install into aircraft lavatories.


The concept provides an organized system for reading Braille words to assist the visually impaired to access lavatories BrailleWise installed in aircraft lavatoryindependently.


The BrailleWise concept enhances lavatory accessibility in a simple, yet effective way. Beams are put up around a lavatory compartment showing simple directions. A beam with signs in Braille letters for all functions will show the visually impaired people where they can find the amenities such as toilet rolls. The tactile signs on the beam show the names of the amenities along with upward or downward arrows pointing to their actual locations. 


Upon entering the lavatory, a visually impaired individual can immediately feel the presence of the Braille beams at waist level. Running his/her fingers down the beam, the user instantly locates a wanted function such as the toilet bowl, the flush handle and the wash basin.



Professor Michael Siu of The Hong Kong Polytechnic UniversityBrilliant ideas hardly go unnoticed. The BrailleWise concept won the 2012 "Diamond Award" of Successful Design Award the Shanghai Industrial Design Association and Shanghai Creative Industry Centre. BrailleWise also received the Runner-up Prize at the Crystal Cabin Award 2012 held in Germany, the only international prize for aircraft innovations.


"BrailleWise" is part of applied research outcomes of a research project funded by the Seventh Round of "Public Policy Research", which is granted by Research Grants Council of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.


Transforming the aircraft lavatory into a barrier-free location for the visually impaired, BrailleWise improves the ability of blind people to be more comfortable when traveling by air. Despite praising the idea, airlines around the world have yet to  install the BrailleWise concept into their aircraft lavatory.




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