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***Cover page

Volume 2

Number 3

Summer 2009


AER Journal:

Research and Practice

in Visual Impairment and Blindness


A quarterly journal in the field of education and rehabilitation of persons of all ages with low vision or blindness


***ADVERTISEMENT

AER Regional Conference Featuring COMA’s Conference Within a Conference

Nov. 13-15, 2009, Crowne Plaza Cleveland City Centre

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Go to www.aerbvi.org/regionalconf for more information.


***Masthead page


AER Journal: Research and Practice in Visual Impairment and Blindness

A quarterly journal in the field of education and rehabilitation of persons of all

ages with low vision or blindness


Volume 2 Number 3 Summer 2009


Editor-in-Chief

Deborah Gold, Ph.D.

CNIB


Guest Editor

Richard Long

Western Michigan University


Associate Editors

Adele Crudden, Ph.D.

Mississippi State University


Amy R. McKenzie, Ed.D.

Florida State University


Rona Pogrund, Ph.D.

Texas Tech University


AER Journal

Editorial Advisory Board

Steven LaGrow, Ed.D.

Massey University


Sandra Lewis, Ed.D.

Florida State University


George Zimmerman, Ph.D.

University of Pittsburgh


AER Staff

Jim Gandorf, CAE

Executive Director


Ginger Croce

Director of Membership & Marketing


AER Journal: Research and Practice in Visual Impairment and Blindness (ISSN 1945-5569) is published quarterly by the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), 1703 N. Beauregard Street, Suite 440, Alexandria, VA 22311-1744, (703) 671-4500, fax (703) 671-6391. AER, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, supports professionals who provide education and rehabilitation services to people with visual impairments, offering professional development opportunities, publications, and public advocacy. Publishing services provided by Allen Press, 810 E. 10th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044. All rights reserved. Reproduction in part or whole is prohibited.


Copyright © 2009 Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. Printed in the U.S.A. Contact AER for copyright permission.


Application to mail at periodicals postage rates is pending in Lawrence, KS.


The annual print subscription rate is $99 for institutions in the U.S, $124 for institutions outside the U.S, including Canada and Mexico. Allow six weeks for shipment of first copy. Single copies are available at $30 in the U.S. and elsewhere at $40. All amounts are listed and payable in U.S. dollars. Contact aerj@allenpress.com for more subscription information.


POSTMASTER: Send address changes to AER Journal, Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, 1703 N. Beauregard Street, Suite 440, Alexandria, VA 22311-1744.


AER Journal does not accept responsibility for views expressed in articles, reviews, and other contributions that appear in its pages. AER Journal is a benefit of membership in AER. Call (877) 492-2708 or &703) 671-4500 for membership information and customer service inquiries.


***ADVERTISEMENT


AER Journal: Research and Practice in Visual Impairment and Blindness


Call for Manuscripts


Special AER Journal Theme Issue


Do you work with children or adults who are deafblind?

Do you conduct research involving persons with this dual disability?


Consider submitting an article on your research or practice for our Special Theme Issue 2010: Issues in Services to People who are Deafblind.


Deafblindness creates challenges in communication, education and rehabilitation, as well as significant rewards. Professionals find there is only limited information in the research literature that applies to the work they do with people (of all ages) who are deafblind, or losing both hearing and vision simultaneously due to their age. This issue aims to fill that gap.


Guest Editors

Dr. Deborah Chen, PhD, California State University, Northridge

Ms. Nancy O’Donnell, MA, Helen Keller National Center


Manuscript submission deadline: January 31, 2010. Publication date: August 11, 2010.


Visit www.aerbvi.org for submission information.


***Table of Contents

From the Editor 109


Deborah Gold….. 109

From the Guest Editor 110


Clear Paths and Pleasant Wanderings...... 110

Richard G Long

Original Research 111


User Perceptions of Accessible GPS as a Wayfinding Tool...... 111

Steven J La Grow

Paul E Ponchillia

Erica Ihrke

Carolyn D Sullins

Syprose A Owiti

Ladel Lewis


Importance of Information Selectivity in Navigating the Community...... 121

David A Ross


Audio-Based Navigation Using Virtual Environments: Combining Technology and Neuroscience......128

Lotfi B Merabet

Jaime Sánchez

Practice Report 138


Putting Orientation Back into O&M: Teaching Concepts to Young Students...... 138

Diane Brauner


Accessible Pedestrian Signals in San Francisco:

Example of Successful Advocacy...... 144

Lainey Feingold

Jessica Lorenz

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Photo caption: AER Board Member Janie Blome,

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Click www.aerbvi.org to get started today!


Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired


***From the Editor


I am very pleased to present the AER Journal's first special theme issue. We selected the theme of wayfinding after I realized that there was little published on the subject, although it was of some concern among people in orientation and mobility. In other words, a great deal of work was going on by technological research experts and in universal design; yet, little was being published here in the field of vision rehabilitation. It was time to change that. We were gratified to have 12 papers submitted for this issue. Although only five could be accepted for the current issue, we had several others that have been positively reviewed and are being held for future issues of the Journal.


I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Dr. Richard Long, our guest editor for this theme issue. I do not think he quite imagined the amount of work coming his way when he said yes to me at the AER conference in Chicago last year. Nobody is better qualified to lead the way, and Dr. Long has done a superb job in overseeing the work of the reviewers and doing the editorial legwork to make this issue a success. Whereas wayfinding technology usually results in less dependence on guides, the same is not true of publishing. In publishing one always needs a guide, and Dr. Long has ably guided the authors featured here and their reviewers. My deepest appreciation and gratitude are extended to him for these efforts.


I sincerely hope you, the reader, enjoy this latest contribution of the AER Journal, and I look forward to hearing your responses by e-mail or in a “Letter to the Editor.”

Until Next Time,


Deborah Gold, PhD

Editor-in-Chief (Captain)


***From the Guest Editor

Clear Paths and Pleasant Wanderings

There are common elements in serving for the first time as a guest editor for a journal and in finding one's way in unfamiliar territory. Each offers opportunities for creativity and inspiration. On the other hand, each is replete with opportunities for wrong turns that end in unanticipated places or, worse yet, in places that are best avoided. I trust that as you read the diverse set of articles on orientation and wayfinding that follow, you will be intrigued by the opportunity to explore a topic that, although somewhat neglected in our professional literature, is central to the field of orientation and mobility (O&M) and to the lives of individuals with blindness and low vision.


In my work in O&M, I've been intrigued by the fact that our mobility-related techniques and strategies are described in great detail in various “practice-oriented” books, but there is little of a similar nature related to orientation and wayfinding. I also know that children and adults can learn to think about space and about wayfinding in ways that allow for flexibility in route planning and efficiency in route execution. Good teaching and good technology are important ingredients in this learning process. The articles in this special issue will stimulate you to think about the research and instructional development work that could improve our efforts in this important area.


One thing will be clear as you read this issue—Technology plays a key role today, and its influence in wayfinding of individuals with blindness and low vision will grow dramatically in the future. Four of the five articles focus on technology in wayfinding, addressing topics such as cutting-edge technologies for sign reading and indoor navigation (Ross), the use of global satellite positioning (La Grow et al.), the role of neuroscience and virtual gaming in wayfinding (Merabet and Sanchez), and the role of accessible pedestrian signals to support street crossings (Feingold & Lorenz). The fifth article, by O&M specialist Diane Brauner, provides an excellent introduction for the practitioner to approaches that help young children acquire the spatial concepts and the confidence in wayfinding that is critical to independence in mobility.


I trust that this issue will be both enlightening and stimulating reading. Please feel free to e-mail me at richard.long@wmich.edu if you have comments about the issue. Good reading!


Richard G Long, PhD

Guest Editor

***User Perceptions of Accessible GPS

Original Research

User Perceptions of Accessible GPS as a Wayfinding Tool

Steven J La Grow, EdD*

Massey University, Palmerston North


Paul E Ponchillia, PhD

Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI


Erica Ihrke, MA

Leader Dogs for the Blind, Rochester Hills, MI


Carolyn D Sullins, PhD

Syprose A Owiti, MA

Ladel Lewis, MA

Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI


*Please address correspondence to s.j.lagrow@massey.ac.nz

Abstract


The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which a group of visually impaired persons who own GPS use it for everyday travel, their perceptions of the impact the use of these systems has on their ability to carry out specific wayfinding tasks, and the extent to which the use of GPS affects their view of themselves as travelers. Seventy-one persons who had completed a GPS training course run by Leader Dogs for the Blind were surveyed. The vast majority of the participants were found to agree with statements indicating that the use of GPS was helpful for carrying out each of the major wayfinding tasks canvassed. It also was found that the participants used GPS most of the time when traveling in most environments. A high percentage of travelers also agreed to statements that the use of GPS made them more capable, confident, and relaxed travelers. This study provides evidence of the efficacy of accessible GPS as a wayfinding tool.


Keywords: GPS; wayfinding; orientation; orientation and mobility; visually impaired

Introduction


Wayfinding, or environmental navigation, is a fundamental human activity involving purposeful and directed movement to reach predetermined destinations (Darken & Peterson, 2002; Mast & Zaehle, 2008). The process of wayfinding requires one to establish and maintain orientation to place, plan routes of travel along designated pathways (e.g., sidewalks or footpaths, pedestrian crossings, steps and stairs, bus routes, train and subway lines), and solve problems as they arise (Long & Hill, 1997). Though this is generally considered a visual task, those who are blind or have low vision may learn the skills required to successfully navigate environments (i.e., orientation and mobility) of varying levels of complexity to a high degree (Rieser, 2008). Yet, the quality of information available to them for doing so is often not of the same level as that available to others (Long & Hill) nor is it always possible to find other reliable sources of information when needed (Ponchillia, Rak, Freeland, & La Grow, 2007). For example, accessible place information for independent travelers with visual impairments, such as auditory cues provided by traffic on busy streets and distinctive intersections, or from buses entering or departing bus terminals, is simply not consistently available. Likewise, place information gathered from others is only as reliable as the source's knowledge of the locale or his or her ability to describe it. As a result, some limitations in wayfinding may continue to exist even for the most skilled travelers.


Accessible global positioning devices, however, may provide a way to overcome many of these problems by coupling global positioning systems (GPS) with geographic information systems (GIS) to allow users to easily and precisely locate themselves in the environment and plan routes of travel to their desired destination (Broida, 2004; El-Rabbany, 2002; Taylor & Blewitt, 2006). The types of information provided by these devices can be divided into four broad categories, including (a) “Where am I?” functions, (b) route functions, (c) points of interest functions, and (d) virtual functions (Ponchillia, Rak, et al., 2007). “Where am I?” functions, also referred to as user location functions, include such information as the name of the street of travel and the upcoming intersection and its distance, as well as estimated address and direction of travel. Route functions enable a user to create and travel routes to specified destinations and follow unit-generated directions that include turn-by-turn instructions. Route recalculation is generated automatically if the traveler fails to follow the directions given. Points of interest (POI) functions are of two major types: commercially available POI that include a database containing an array of businesses and services located in the area and self-generated POI that consist of a database created by the user. Virtual functions permit users to “look around” environments without actually traveling in them. Virtual functions may be used to preview routes to be traveled and even help one decide where to eat or stay once there.


Two studies have provided evidence that current, state-of-the-art accessible GPS technology provides information that is reliable enough to meet certain wayfinding needs (Ponchillia, MacKenzie, Long, Denton-Smith, Hicks, & Miley, 2007; Ponchillia, Rak, et al., 2007). Ponchillia, MacKenzie, et al. found that with training, the device they tested appeared to provide sufficiently accurate information to be of practical use. In their study, an experienced user was able to approach an unknown target within less than one-half meter on every attempt using the GPS. In a second study, Ponchillia, Rak, et al. (2007) reported that their subjects consistently used the accessible GPS device they tested to gain orientation and find objectives designated by street address and marked as a user-generated POI. The participants were able to use the device to quickly establish place orientation after purposely being disoriented and to successfully plan routes to and accurately locate specified destinations in a familiar residential environment. Success was found to be a function of the subjects' willingness to accept the wayfinding information available from the device and of one's ability to interact with the unit itself (Ponchillia, Rak, et al., 2007). Thus, training and practice in GPS use is thought to be important to the quality of the outcomes gained.


User performance, however, is also likely a function of the brand of accessible GPS device used, because they all do not have identical hardware and software components. As such, performance-affecting characteristics such as accuracy, usability, and data quality would be expected to vary. In addition, utility across various environments, particularly in those where access to satellites might be limited (i.e., urban and/or wooded) or in familiar versus unfamiliar environments is unknown. In addition, little is published about the impact GPS devices have on one's overall experience while traveling or wayfinding. The purpose of this study was to fill some of these gaps by surveying users to determine the extent to which they use the Trekker® GPS for everyday travel, the environments and conditions in which they find it most useful, and their perceptions of the impact it has on their travel.

Method


This study was conducted in accordance with the tenets of the Declaration of Helsinki and approved by the Human Subjects Institutional Review Board, Western Michigan University. A telephone survey was conducted with graduates from a series of GPS training sessions run by Leader Dogs for the Blind between June 2005 and August 2008. These programs, although designed to introduce accessible GPS to persons with visual impairments in general, were conducted using Trekker® GPS exclusively. Each program was 5.5 days in duration. Approximately 40 percent of the time was spent indoors in the classroom and 60 percent outdoors in the environment. The basics of using GPS, keyboard function, unit adjustment (i.e., volume and speech rate), and assembly were introduced in the classroom, as were the techniques required for navigating the software, browsing a map virtually, and using the device with a computer. During outdoor instruction, students were taught to travel in different types of environments (i.e., residential, semibusiness, business, college campus) by foot and as a passenger in vehicles while using GPS. They learned to use the system to maintain their orientation and find destinations, create and execute routes, reverse routes, recover when lost, create points of interest and navigate in areas away from the street grid. Each participant owned the Trekker® GPS unit used for training and took it home at the completion of the program.
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