Problems and Solutions: Wayfinding Inside The NYUAD Campus

It is important to highlight that recently there has been evidence of changes to the campus design. Implementations and alterations which arguably contribute in enhancing the wayfinding experience on campus especially in the context of accessibility are being currently assembled. Based on the recommendation of the previous wayfinding class, automotive doors are systematically being installed throughout campus at major points of entry. Notable examples include the main ground-level entry point to the Campus Centre, the A2C Residential Block on the Highline, the D2 Dining Hall, and the East and West Highline entry points to the Campus Centre; one through the Market Place and one through the Baraha. When fully functional these entry points will enhance the accessibility to efficiently use and open doors for members of the community with impaired abilities through the instalment of well distinguished and visible operating buttons at a height appropriate for wheel chair users.

However, the implementation of such automotive doors actually decreases accessibility at these entry points. Due to the nature of entry points on campus, the pull motion is required to open doors to enter buildings from the outside, whereas the push motion is required to open doors to exit buildings from the inside. As such from the prospective of a person with impaired abilities requiring assistance it is naturally harder to open doors from the outside to enter buildings. However, the contradiction of securing the entry points from the outside due to safety concerns meant that the buttons to activate the opening of the automotive doors have been only installed from the inside. Speaking to a friend, a fellow NYUAD student with impaired abilities and a wheel chair user, this is a major problem. Based on the student’s comments, it was easy to generate the push motion with the wheel chair to open doors from the inside and as such the installation of the automotive doors is useless if the buttons are only from the inside. The student’s main needs are opening the doors from the outside with the pull motion. As such the absence of buttons to control the automotive doors from the outside still endures the student additional hardship in using the doors and does not enhance her accessibility. It can be argued that the installation of automotive doors even impairs the accessibility of the regular user.  This is because the additional mechanisms installed at the doors make these entry points heavier and as such harder to open from the outside using the pull motion. As such greater transparency in the form of communication is needed between the members of the community and administration in charge of implementing wayfinding inactivates on campus. A platform such surveys and meetings on the current and future projects could open the dialogue needed for such initiatives to be ultimately effective.

Once altered is important for these automotive doors as well as main entrances to be identified on the campus map outlets, as a point of reference for the entry points suitable for members of the community and visitors with impaired mobility. However, the campus map can be further altered and improved. Maps, as a visual element of orientation, are an integral component to wayfinding. These illustrations allow the user to efficiently analyse information in order to identity one’s location in relation to the surrounding built environment. As such it is important to enhance the campus map based on the concept of geospatial awareness.  One problem the map exhibits is the overload of information. As mentioned in Gibson’s The Wayfinding Handbook: Information Design for Public Places in an era of ‘Information Architecture’ it is of heightened importance to effectively balance the avaliable information. As such it can be argued that too much information can distract the user’s geospatial awareness in relation to the built environment.  It is therefore important to modify the map by simplifying the design and the content especially the building index. As signage is also problem on campus, I propose that there should be a greater focus on landmarks. Notable examples on campus include the palms in the Central Plaza, the #myNYUAD sign in the East Plaza, and the fountains lining Broadway and the main entrance onto campus on the ground-level. It has been noted by Gibson that landmarks are integral in geospatial orientation as they are easily recognisable and visible and as such the inclusion of these landmarks onto the map can enhance the sense of direction and location in relation to them. Signs, a component which is directly connected to the efficiency of maps, can be enhanced on campus by implementing floor signs, ones which encapsulate general directions with arrows and exploit the artistic geometric patterns of the pavement tiles.

The concept of wayfinding also stems to transportation. Maps are often integrated with complex transportation systems in order to ease flows through the city by enhancing one’s orientation in relation to one’s location. This relational perspective of maps helps the user to identity the optimal route to reach a certain destination, locations which often extend beyond the transportation system. This idea of implementing maps to transportation systems could be also applied to the campus shuttle services provided for members of the community. These shuttle services, an integral form of transportation to and from campus, currently only compose of a timetable as a guide to the locations serviced in the city. As such it is hard for the members of the community to orient themselves in relation to Abu Dhabi and the routes of the shuttle services. As such I advocate for the shuttle services to be visualised by creating a map exhibiting these routes highlighting the specific spatial locations of the bus stops in relation to Abu Dhabi as a city.

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