Our work on navigation and wayfinding encompasses both low vision and blindness (here is an overview chapter that raises the main issues), though it is important to recognize that these tasks are accomplished in very different ways depending on the degree of functional vision. Some of the issues in this broad area focus on signage, and we spent several years working with the Access Board on revising the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines in relation to signage, and with the ANSI A117 task force to develop better standards for accessible signage.
Several years ago, we developed a prototype computer-based interactive tactile map system for blind people to access building interiors. In that project, we developed an innovative measure to assess wayfinding path directions, in which performance with our talking system was compared with performance based on verbal wayfinding directions initially obtained (then stored for subsequent retrieval) from actual bystanders.
Most recently we have been collaborating with Drs. YingLi Tian and Jizhong Xiao from the Department of Electrical Engineering at the City College of New York, to develop an Intelligent Situation Awareness and Navigation Aid for Visually Impaired Persons. This navigation and wayfinding aid will combine computer-vision and other sensor technologies with simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) robotic techniques to provide blind persons enhanced independence and mobility and will incorporate a unique voice-based and sonic interface. This work is supported by the Department of Transportation of the United States Federal Highway Adminstration.
We are very interested in how people orient themselves in space based on visual and nonvisual information, and are also currently exploring new technologies that might help blind people obtain the kinds of information about location and direction in space that those with vision get. We feel this is an important prerequisite for effective navigation and support of memory about spatial location. We have some new and innovative ideas about this that we think are very promising, and for which we are currently seeking funding.