Public transport and dementia

It’s common for people with dementia to become less confident when using public transport and airports. The noise, the lights, and the crowds are distractions that can cause disorientation. Dementia Singapore found a way to help orientate and guide people through busy stations and interchanges through the “Find Your Way” initiative.

Noise, lights, crowds: public transport for people with dementia becomes increasingly challenging. People with autism/autistic people have similar experiences.

Long view of a Singapore bus interchange showing the different coloured directional arrows on the floor. Public transport and dementia.

The aim of the Find Your Way initiative is to help people with dementia use public transport independently. The Find Your Way project uses colour coding for district zones. The colour makes it easier to perceive the space and find information in a busy complex environment.

Working group

Dementia Singapore set up a working group of local dementia advocates, two members of Dementia Alliance International, and the major bus operator SBS Transit.

Brightly coloured icons guide all travellers in the right direction. Another example of “essential for some, good for others”.

A large purple icon is attached to a column making it highly visible. The same icon is used from the beginning to the end of the route through the interchange.

The technical advice focused on designs that are intuitive and easy to understand. Emily Ong’s short article has more on the technical group, the Environmental Design Special Interest Group (ED-SiC) that worked on the project.

The incorporation of a childhood game is part of providing information in multiple formats. Large directional arrow markings on the floor also aid people in orientating themselves and finding their way. The photographs show how colour and icons are used.

An instructive floor plan of the stations showing key buildings and directions to buses and trains.
Floor plan showing the colour zoning and interchange layout

The title of the short article is, Designing public transit systems for accessibility and inclusion of people with cognitive impairments. It’s a quick overview of the project by Emily Ong, Project Lead and Co-Chair of DAI ED-SiG. You can find out more from Dementia Singapore website where there are more photos of the project.

SBS Transit staff give thumbs up to the wayfinding design at the Toa Payoh Bus Interchange.

Staff of SBS Transit give the thumbs up to the directional arrows on the flooring.

Airport travel guide for people with dementia

Airports are confusing places at the best of times, particularly for the first visit. The size, noise, and number of people don’t help. If the signs aren’t in a language you understand it can be bewildering. Knowing what to expect before you go is a great help. Brisbane Airport  airport travel guide for people with dementia is also good for first time visitors.

Front cover of the guide showing an aircraft overlaid with artistic coloured squares

The guide is titled, Ensuring a Smooth Journey: A Guide through the Brisbane Airport’s International Terminal for People Living with Dementia and their Travel Companions.

The guide is easy to follow. It covers preparing for the journey, getting to the airport, checking in and flying out. Coming home again addresses, passport, baggage claim, and domestic transfers among other things. There is a list of dementia friendly symbols at the end of the guide. As with most guides, this one is applicable to other airports.

Airports and autism

Autistic people/people with autism need similar design considerations to people with dementia. Vancouver airport has introduced a simulated rehearsal program to help families with the whole pre-flight process so it becomes more predictable. People who are likely to feel overwhelmed by the whole process like to know beforehand what is going to happen and how it all works. This could also include people who are new to air travel, especially now that most processes are automated.

The program includes the Vancouver Airport Resource Kit, which features a step-by-step storybook, interactive checklist, airport map and tips for travel. There is also a video series that helps travellers with autism prepare for the flight.

People in warm clothes push their baggage at an airport.

Vancouver airport has an “Autism Access Sticker” that can be placed on boarding passes. The sticker ensures a smooth transition through screening and customs. It also communicates the specific needs of passengers to airport employees. See the video series below. Very well done – a good model that can be applied to all airports.

Accessibility Toolbar