Conference Presentations

FINDING YOUR WAY – A breakout session and discussion about wayfinding, design and learning from those with vision loss at Walk21 Calgary


Walk21 Calgary will draw academia, citizens, policy-makers, urban planners, healthcare professionals, and local leaders who are invested in fostering healthy and vibrant communities. Urban Systems is an event sponsor and we will be leading a discussion session to share how ideas of wayfinding and accessibility influence our work as Landscape Architects, Environmental Designers and Urban Planners, and share local examples from environments that we design and encounter on a daily basis. We see the potential to explore concepts of wayfinding as a tool to navigate our pedestrian environment and how it can be adapted and designed to serve a broader community regardless of adversity.

Lee Giddens, Landscape Consultant
Lisa Konopski, Environmental Consultant

When: Friday September 22, 9:00am – 12:30pm. 20 minute presentation by Lisa and Lee, the remaining time will feature a number of breakout sessions and presentations.
Where: Calgary City Hall, Power Reception Room
Lisa Konopski, Environmental Designer
Lee Giddens, Landscape Consultant

Our breakout session aims to raise awareness of what life is like for the hundreds of thousands of individuals in Canada who live with vision loss. We will discuss the basic concepts of wayfinding and universal accessibility, and how these notions relate to partially sighted individuals. We have partnered with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) for this presentation to promote awareness and share the experience of the blind and partially sighted as they find their way through public and private infrastructure.

Description of the Event

CNIB will discuss different levels of visual impairment and how the built environment affects the blind and partially sighted. To those with vision loss, walking can be equated with freedom. CNIB has a dedicated Orientation and Mobility instructor (who is partially sighted herself) who will discuss some of the top issues and concerns that visually impaired people experience as they navigate through the built environment, as well as models to increase access. Here, we see the potential for an interactive conversation between Design Professionals, CNIB and presentation attendees to share awareness, ideas and experiences.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

Urban Systems and CNIB will share specific examples of everyday design elements that pose challenges and opportunities for those with vision loss. We will discuss how simple design changes or products can improve these challenges. Our team will also share examples where designers and CNIB have collaborated on inclusive projects, such as the CNIB Scent Garden, and the CNIB Sensory Playground. Our breakout session will conclude with a discussion to explore successful elements, lessons learned and potential considerations for the future to make the public realm and wayfinding elements accessible, diverse and useful to the communities they serve.

Implications and Recommendations

Through a shared presentation and discussion of experiences, presenters and participants will learn and converse. The intent is that all will leave with an awareness of how design decisions related to wayfinding and accessibility within the pedestrian environment affect people of all abilities and mobilities.

Visit the Walk21 Conference website for further program information

Copyright © 2019 Urban Systems. All Rights Reserved.