Enhancing the Safety of the Carnegie Mellon Campus for Blind Navigators

Source Organization:TechBridgeWorld, Robotics Institute, School of Computer Science
University:Carnegie Mellon University
Principal Investigator:M. Bernardine Dias
PI Contact Information:mbdias@ri.cmu.eduTel: 412-268-9365
Project Manager:Sarah Belousov
Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization):University Transportation Center, Technologies for Safe and Efficient Transportation $50,000
Total Dollars:$50,000
Agency ID/Contract/Grant Number:N/A
Start and End Dates:January 2013 - December 2013
Project Status:Complete
Subject Categories:Safety and human factors
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, people with disabilities have to often seek help and use secondary cues to navigate many urban environments safely. This work aims to start addressing this safety problem by exploring a variety of tools and frameworks that can enhance the safety of blind adults navigating the Carnegie Mellon campus and its connections to the surrounding community. We envision a suite of tools accessible via ubiquitous smartphones and personal computers that can assist blind navigators with navigation tasks. By enhancing safe navigation in this pilot site, we will be poised to expand the application to other locations in the city of Pittsburgh and beyond.
Describe Implementation of Research Outcomes (or why not implemented):Planned research outcomes for this work include exploration of strategies and initial prototyping of some tools that enable pre-trip route planning for blind travelers, enhance navigation assistance for blind travelers during their travel, and provide options for seeking help when blind travelers are in unsafe or difficult situations. Towards this end a significant assessment of needs has been carried out by interviewing, surveying, and observing several relevant experts and targeted users of our technology. Based on these findings, initial strategies and prototypes have been developed to address the pre-trip route planning and navigation assistance components of our planned outcomes.
Impacts/Benefits of Implementation (actual, not anticipated):A significant impact of our work to date has been documenting the needs and challenges of blind travelers. We have also made significant progress in exploring the role of mobile and computing technology to enhance the navigation capability and thereby the independence and safety of visually impaired people.
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