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Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second GERHARD WEBER: Many mobile devices are supporting people to read maps. We will look into some of the aspects related to accessibility of apps on one hand, and also on the improvement of mobility by using modern apps that are available on either iOS or Android mobile phones. I’ve been saying many blind people have problems in being mobile, and this really affects the well-known group of people with wheelchairs. They cannot master easily stairs and climb up where other people simply make a step over. But what is not so well-known is that blind people often can get lost if they don’t know the environment. If they have come here for the first time, and then it’s quite important to get additional support.

Skip to 1 minute and 2 seconds Other groups that are affected by mobility issues are people with aphasia. They also can get easily lost after some time, and also elderly people, who can’t go that far any more, benefit very much from good explanations of where to go and how to find some building or some other place. And finally, people with dementia– they are pretty mobile, but actually, the problem is to help them not to get lost and disoriented. So we did a survey in 2008 and asked about 80-90 blind people on what they would expect from IT in order to support them with mobility. And 23% in total were responding that they need really assistance when travelling.

Skip to 2 minutes and 4 seconds But on the other hand, 77% travel on their own without such assistance. And actually, this is explained by another figure where 48% said that they have learned the routes by mobility training sessions. So they have been trained to master a certain specific route and don’t want to leave that route specifically. So in terms of support and assitive technology the well-known long white cane is most common. It’s really something that 12 of our 88 subjects were saying. Tactile maps on the other hand, something that is not easily portable, is used by 12 people, again, and six people are using a guide dog while, only three people have been using in 2008 already the navigation system. That’s not so much.

Skip to 3 minutes and 6 seconds What we find most interesting is that the shortest route, something that is calculated by navigation systems for cars, is not the best one. Most blind people, 94% in our survey, said that they would accept a better route, even if it’s a longer route. So in order to come up with assistive technology to support navigation, we need to distinguish two modes or two models for navigation. One, that blind people really master quite well with the help of the long cane, is reaching out about 1.2 metres, maybe maximum 10 metres, what we call the micronavigation.

Skip to 3 minutes and 53 seconds So it means blind people simply are experiencing through the tip of the cane what is on the floor and by listening to the echo what is around them. Since every tap by the cane on the floor creates some additional reflections. Beyond these 10 metres, we talk about macronavigation. That’s far more difficult to plan when we are travelling all around in cities or even beyond cities. But even inside buildings, large buildings like train stations or airports, this can be very difficult to master, because we have to develop a kind of special cognition of what is around us. Special cognition means that the geometric reasoning about what is around us can be performed.

Skip to 4 minutes and 48 seconds And actually, by analysis of blind people walking in gymnasiums and elsewhere, testing determined that it doesn’t matter whether these people are blindfolded, congenitally blind, or have acquired blindness at a later point in time. So one of the first steps beyond geometric reasoning– so what is closer, what is further away– is the ability to project 3D surfaces onto the ground. I’m living in Dresden, and Dresden is a city within a valley. All those hills around the valley, around the river Elbe have to be mapped to some flat surface in order to understand what are distances in this city. Beyond that type of cognition, the next, let’s say, abstractions levels are dealing with relationships within the city or within some region.

Skip to 5 minutes and 52 seconds This means that typically, we start from landmarks and build up a star relationship. And based on these relationships, this can be extended to temporal relationships or to expressing them in verbal form. So whenever we build assistive technology we have to keep in mind that users, that people who use such an app, develop their understanding and are at a different level of understanding already. So when it comes to develop new applications, new apps around maps in order to support mobility, we have to measure also the success how well such a solution actually helps people to build up maps. This is traditionally done simply by asking people.

Skip to 6 minutes and 46 seconds On the other hand, in verbal explanations, we make a lot of simplifications and don’t say everything that other people actually would know from looking where you have been walking. So drawing a map is typically performed in order to measure understanding of somebody who is sighted and who can draw by himself. For blind people, this again, is a bit more difficult, and therefore we have been developing a method around the reconstruction of maps using metal stripes that actually are magnetic so that they can be positioned on a surface or on some foil and then are attached to them, are not easily moved.

Skip to 7 minutes and 33 seconds So by counting the number of correct crossing, the number of correct routes and parts of routes, we can actually compare numerically how well blind people have been able to use a particular solution. We’ve done this in a study by comparing maps when we are reading this with fingers on a tactile printout versus touch-tablet PCs and also other technologies based on pin medics devices. And it turned out that there are clearly winners simply by computing the correctness of the mental map that has been developed then by placing magnetic stripes on a surface. So I hope this gives you an idea of how development of user interfaces for application development around maps can be performed. Thank you.

Navigating around your environment

Navigation around the environment, also known as wayfinding, depends on user preferences and the requirements for car drivers, cyclists, pedestrians or passengers using trains, busses and trams.

In this video, Professor Gerhard Weber provides you with an overview of what is available on smartphones to aid navigation for those with disabilities and how some specialist apps can increase independence.

Elderly people often find walking any distance tiring and remembering a route can be an issue for those with dementia.

Mobility impaired users in a wheelchair or with a walking frame find stairs impossible or difficult.

Blind people need extra guidance to avoid obstacles and cannot always depend on the usual built-in satellite navigation apps. Furthermore, indoor navigation in big buildings like an airport and train station have to be considered.

Can you think of some important issues that wayfinding apps have yet to solve?

© This video is created by Technische Universität Dresden and licensed under CC-BY BY 4.0 International Licence. Erasmus + MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership.

© This text is a derivative of a work created by Johannes Kepler Universität Linz and Technische Universität Dresden, and licensed under CC-BY BY 4.0 International Licence adapted and used by the University of Southampton. Erasmus + MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership.

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Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society

University of Southampton