Enhancing The Safety Of Visually Impaired Travelers In And Around Transit Stations

Source Organization:
University:Carnegie Mellon University
Principal Investigator:M. Bernardine Dias
PI Contact
Project Manager:Courtney Ehrlichman
Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization):$49,588
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Start and End Dates:January 2016 - January 2017
Project Status:Active
Subject Categories:Pedestrian/traveler safety technology
Abstract:Safety is a primary concern for the visually impaired when navigating unfamiliar urban environments. Since most environments are constructed to be easily navigated by sighted people, visually impaired people have to often seek help and use secondary clues to navigate many urban environments safely. As a result, daily activities such as using transit systems remain challenging tasks for people with visual impairments even though the use of transit systems is often a key factor for participation in employment, and educational, social, and cultural opportunities. Visually impaired adults have several challenges when navigating unfamiliar environments. First, they must pre-plan their navigation routes as much as possible and need to build a mental map of the new environment they will be navigating. Next, they need to figure out how to navigate between locations of interest from a known environment. They also need to be informed of dynamic changes to the unfamiliar environment which may impact their safe navigation. Furthermore, they need to be able to “record” their navigation experience for future trips and also potentially share this information with others who might find it useful. Finally, if they get into any unsafe or difficult situation while navigating the unfamiliar environment, they need to have a reliable means of getting help. We have been exploring specific needs and constraints encountered by this user population when using transit stations. Based on our findings, we prototyped an accessible smartphone tool that has significant potential to enhance the safety of these travelers. This tool allows travelers to annotate their paths and choose/invite trusted sources to enhance the relevant information that can enhance the safety and efficacy of their travel. The proposed work will further develop this prototype, conduct user tests and iterative enhancements, and deploy the tool with a small set of relevant users in Pittsburgh.
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