Wayfinding and signage for people with functional illiteracy

Dylan Burns
ARC623 | Fall 2016

In the US, 40 million people are unable to/have difficulty reading signage due to illiterracy.Using PIAAC’s definition for literacy, one can expand the scope of the population that would be considered functionally “illiterate” to include: children who have not yet learned to read, tourists, refugees, residents with a language barrier and people with vision impairments.

People with functional illiteracy are often most at risk for danger, without the additional burden of navigational difficulty. Refugees and tourists are often unfamiliar with the area and a language barrier could affect their ability to adjust or assimilate. There can be extreme danger if signage that conveys warnings cannot be understood. If people who are functionally illiterate cannot be independent, their need for additional help draws attention to and stigmatizes their situation, potentially causing mental concerns.