Salus journal

Healthy Planet. Healthy People.

Healthcare / Wayfinding

European Healthcare Design 2021

Designing wayfinding systems for (neuro)diversity

By Andrew Sansom 14 Mar 2022 0

This poster and associated video consider issues around neurodiversity when designing wayfinding in healthcare facilities for all.


We are entering a new era of healthcare design. This calls for innovation and for rethinking our practices of design. And this possibility of re-invention obliges us to consider how we embrace and include as many users as possible when we design for hospital environments – both patients and employees.

We all read the world in our own way and depend on different means of information to find our sense of direction. “Neurodiversity is a relatively new term, recognising the diversity of human cognition and includes neurodivergent conditions such as Autism Spectrum Condition, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia as part of that natural diversity”.

This definition of neurodiversity was presented by BBC’s UX&D team, who developed a checklist to help create environments that consider the needs of all users.

Large buildings like hospitals are often particularly complex to navigate owing to their multifunctionality, size and unvarying interiors – not just for users of the front of house but also for the employees back of house, who keep the wheels going in the large machine that is a modern-day hospital. Part of creating a well-functioning hospital infrastructure is recognising that everyone has different preconditions that need to be considered, whether it is in an unknown environment or in an everyday working environment.

Designing wayfinding for all, taking neurodiversity into account, requires an understanding of how to communicate as simply and precisely as possible. By combining different means of communication – e.g., colours, letters, numbers, raised patterns on walls or floors, sound and pictograms – we ensure that as many as possible, irrespective of their preconditions, can decode the wayfinding systematics. This in turn helps users navigate using whatever means they are more comfortable with.

Keeping an eye on the users’ needs and behaviour, designers, architects and planners can design spaces and wayfinding where the affordances of the space are clear and intuitive for as many users as possible while, at the same time, creating an infrastructure that supports the function of the space.

When striving to innovate and rethink the healthcare sector as we know it today, we should take the time to imagine and consider what problems we can potentially address with these innovations and changes. We now have the possibility of expanding our view on inclusivity and ensure that new initiatives are usable for as many as possible – both front of house and back of house.

Organisations involved