Let’s face it—nobody likes to get lost! And few people would disagree that air travel can be stressful, with confusing signage and non-intuitive wayfinding proving a major source of anxiety. This is especially true for elderly travelers and people with disabilities such as visual impairment, mobility limitations or problems with short-term memory, given complex navigational challenges not met by standard approaches to wayfinding and signage.

The Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) selected Gresham Smith to develop ACRP Research Report 177: Enhancing Airport Wayfinding for Aging Travelers and Persons with Disabilities—a practical, researched-based guidebook that is helping airport operators and planners improve the passenger experience by enhancing wayfinding systems so older adults and persons with diverse abilities can travel independently.

View or purchase a copy of the report on The Transportation Research Board’s website. 


Airport Cooperative Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's Transportation Research Board


Washington, D.C.

Project Type




A Matter of Principles

A Matter of Principles

Because the guidebook is founded on the principles of universal design, also known as design for all, the best practices and principles outlined within have been developed to remain resilient over time—regardless of technology and wayfinding system changes. By adhering to these key principles, ACRP report 177 improves the safety and welfare of all travelers, not just those with disabilities.
A First-of-its-Kind Checklist

A First-of-its-Kind Checklist

The guidebook introduces two first-of-their kind tools developed by Gresham Smith’s research team. One is a Wayfinding Accessibility Audit Checklist. Previously, there were wayfinding analyses that touched on accessibility, and accessibility audits that touched on wayfinding, but no single audit combined the two.

The inaugural checklist includes wayfinding strategies and accessibility features relevant to a passenger’s specific disability, and equips airport operators and consultants with a consolidated tool that goes beyond Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility (ADA) Standards to reach the goal of promoting independent travel for elderly travelers and people with disabilities.

Yes, There’s an App for That

Yes, There’s an App for That

The other prototype tool developed by our research team is a mobile wayfinding application. The app was tested by participants with diverse and varying degrees of a disability, allowing us to observe the most common problems these user groups encountered when navigating an airport.

The results led to the development of a mobile app criteria for any airport or developer that wants to elevate their wayfinding app to be used effectively by people of all abilities. A testimony to the app’s success, several app developers, as well as airports, are now utilizing this technology.

Creating a Difference that Creates Change

Reaching beyond any one airport, the results of ACRP Research Report 177 provide guidance to an entire industry on a global scale that creates a difference that creates change in the lives of older travelers and those with disabilities. A long-awaited change that helps this important but often-overlooked user group travel independently, and perhaps most importantly, with dignity.


Project Contact

Our team designs with genuine care for ingenious solutions.

Design with us.

Jim Harding, SEGD
Jim Harding, SEGD
Director of Experiential Design & Wayfinding