On many occasions I have seen signs, with the equivalent in Braille underneath the text. Which is great. But what baffles me is this: how do blind people know where to find the Braille text?

I don't have any photo examples right now, but in one example I was on a train and noticed a sign on the window saying "Emergency exit, break glass". Underneath that was the Braille for "Emergency exit" (note, no actual instructions). And I couldn't help but wonder, in order to be read a blind person needs to run a finger across it, but why would they run their finger across a random part of the window?

  • 6
    This is a question which is worth one of the biggest bounties ever. I asked a friend of mine a few years ago, and he found it funny because he wasn't aware that these signs were around him. Sure they have there uses sometimes, but most of the time I suspect it is "greenwashing" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenwashing
    – tim.baker
    Mar 24, 2014 at 21:34

3 Answers 3


I believe its because there are universally defined standards on where Braille letters have to positioned with regards to a informational item and braille users generally learn to look for them in one location. There are also classes conducted for people with visual disabilities which inform them where to look for the sign (the class is called Orientation and Mobility) .

The ISO (International Standards Organization) makes placement of signs in the public venue universal, no matter what country one is in. The requirement for signs are:

  • If placed on a door, the sign is to be in the center of the door with the centerline of the sign 5 feet from the floor. The Braille characters are to be at the bottom center of the sign. The writing on the sign is to be of contrasting color to the background.

  • If not placed on the door, the sign is to be placed to the right of the doorway, with the same requirements as to a sign placed on the door.

Here is an image which shows the positioning of the braille signs as per regulations from this site which sells braille signs.

enter image description here

To quote the article

Option 1

This is the preferred position of all Braille Tactile Signs. Position the Braille Signs leading edge between 50mm & 300mm from the architrave. Heightwise the Braille Sign must be positioned between 1200mm & 1600mm from the floor surface.

Option 2

The sign is to be centred on the door when option 1 is not possible.Heightwise, the Braille Tactile sign must be positioned between 1200mm & 1600mm from the floor surface.

The exact ISO specification is the ISO 17049:2013 which stands for Accessible design -- Application of braille on signage, equipment and appliances (Note : you will need to have a subscription to read it).

  • "where to look for them"?
    – user67695
    Jun 14, 2017 at 13:21

Most “blind” people can see a bit. Assuming that the sign is large and has a contrasting colour to the door, then a lot of blind people will at least be able to “see” that there is something on the door.

Once a blind person has learned their way round a building they know where to expect the signs to be, so for example if someone is trying to find a room on a corridor they will be as much using the sign to confirm they have come to the correct room. The sign is good for finding where a doorway is, but it is still possible someone has missed a door and is therefore at the 3rd door (ladies) instead of the 4th door.

It does not help that most blind people have lost their sight later in life and never learn to read Braille as it needs a very good sense of touch, hence Moon is often used but I have yet to see signs in Moon.

However often the Braille sign is just put there for “box ticking” and has no benefit to blind people.

  • "moon is often used"?
    – user67695
    Jun 14, 2017 at 13:22
  • @nocomprende, see moonliteracy.org.uk/whatis.htm
    – Ian
    Jun 14, 2017 at 14:10
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    OK, the link says: "Moon has suffered from a lack of promotion" - I'll say. I have never heard of it. If it is better than Braille, why has it not taken over? This kind of thing drives me crazy. If Dvorak is better, teach it to new computer users and let them switch the keyboard wherever they go. There is no accounting for 'stupid'.
    – user67695
    Jun 14, 2017 at 17:15
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    @nocomprende Braille is great for people that can use it (and is faster for them, with smaller books), however most people who go blind in old age are not able to learn braille as there fingers are not sensitive enough. These days speech output systems on PCs are often used instead of either of them.
    – Ian
    Jun 15, 2017 at 22:27
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    The moonlieracy.org.uk site is broken now
    – icc97
    Feb 10, 2018 at 9:43

As near as I can tell from my sighted perspective, they feel around till they find what they are after. Look at some of the videos from Tommy Edison (the link goes to his ATM video).

Basically, it appears to really suck to try to find the Braille in many situations.

I suspect that if you could figure out a good way to fix this part of the problem, you'd make a lot of people much happier.

  • Oh wow, I remember that guy, I saw one of his videos years ago XD Will definitely watch. Thank you! Mar 24, 2014 at 20:09

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