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07th November 2016

Can We Talk About Signage?

Can we talk about Signage


Do you support the independence of people who use your health and social care services through clear signs?

Colour Stereo Signs

I sit in the GP surgery waiting to go in.  My eyes are mesmerised by a poster on the wall.  The letters are swirling in pinks greens and blues – slightly offset from each other and there are bright sparks fizzing effervescently from each one.  I tut – load enough for the person next to me to turn.  The thing is I can’t for the life of me read it!  I have tried hard but, it just isn’t clear.

If, I, cannot read it, how confusing for someone with a learning disability , visual impairment or living with dementia?

Laminated Lament

My mind is transported to a care home I visited.  I was desperate for the loo.  I walked into the corridor with a row of oak-like doors.  Some had numbers, some had nothing…but no sign to the loo.  It was there, a faded laminated sign, almost illegible.  How sad it may have led to accidents and a lack of dignity for those that needed to identify it with haste.

There Are Signage Rules and Regulations for A Reason

Signs are important. Helping people to find where they need to go daily and in an emergency, from people who use the service, to agency staff and visiting professionals, family and friends.

The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014: Regulation 15 - 1(c) states ‘All premises and equipment used by the service provider must be— suitable for the purpose for which they are being used.’  The CQC provider guidance goes on to say ‘People should be able to easily enter and exit premises and find their way around easily and independently.’

Signs – Trick or Treat?

We went trick or treating much to my husband’s disdain (he actually turned all the lights off when myself and our little team hit the streets).  What we adults as well as the little ghouls, and one random pirate found difficult was the placement of some of the signs and pumpkins.  On a joining wall it was hard to know which house to knock on, and we did get it wrong!

The Dementia Centre in The Importance of Orientation and Signage

says that ‘Disorientation and bewilderment are a common experience for people with dementia and they are very distressing and frightening. Many people with dementia have had to change where they live by, for example, going to live in a special housing unit or a care home. It is really very hard indeed to adjust to a new space because adjustment needs memory and learning.’ They go on to say ‘The environment can be made more supportive and enabling with quite simple additions. The first is to make sure that what is important is highly visible.’

So Let’s Talk About Signage. 

  • Talk to people who use the service, staff and family/friends. Different people will need different things
  • Make it easily recognisable a symbol, braille and or clear word
  • Make it stand out – with a single colour background in an accessible spot with good lighting
  • Make it durable - easy to clean and keep its appearance

The Dementia Centre have fantastic incite and tools to accessibility for those living with dementia.


Lottie Crumblehome the Helen Hamlyn Centre for design at the Royal College of Art for BUPA Reading the signs, Wayfinding in care homes for people with dementia

The Kings Fund’s EHE Environmental Assessment tool ‘Is your Care Home Dementia Friendly?’

A number of sign manufacturers also produce helpful information on the issue – a simple search will provide you with further information.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Abi Spence

Registration and Inspection Specialist

Abi has worked for and with Government agencies relevant to social care for the past 12+ years. Primarily with the Department of Health, Social Services Inspectorate, Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) and since its inception the Care Quality Commission (CQC). As part of this long involvement Abi has developed a wide and detailed understanding of relevant issues and has worked closely with stakeholders such as people that use services, carers, providers, local government, the Department of Health, Ofsted and the Audit Commission. Read more

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