Communication Access and Built Environment

Developed by Glenda Watson Hyatt with input from Lois Turner, CAYA and CDAC.

General Spaces

  • Wheelchair level counters should be low enough for a person to see the individual with whom they are communicating as well to place and use their communication board or device.
  • Space under counters so that people using mobility devices can roll under to use their communication board/device on the counter. Many surfaces do not allow for this and people end up sitting sideways.
  • For public phones areas – lowered for wheelchair access with space to place and use a communication device.
  • Service counters and reception desks that staff can easily exit to be beside a customer/patron to improve communication.
  • A quiet yet public place (i.e., a well-lit alcove) to minimize background noises and distractions to focus on communication.
  • Signage at appropriate level with easily recognized graphics for people with reduced literacy.
  • Good lighting without glare to see a screen. (For example, when a new city hall first opened, outdoor patio umbrellas were needed at the interior information booth because staff couldn’t see the computer screens. The booth was eventually relocated. Glare can also render communication devices unusable.


  • Consider independent alternatives for people who are unable to use the wheelchair level buttons without having to rely on another person to operate the elevator.

Safety and Evacuations

  • Consider ways to access  safety information for an individual during emergencies and building evacuations.