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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Assistive Devices and Services for the Disabled: Auditory Signage and the Accessible City for Blind or Vision-Impaired Travelers

  • Author(s): Golledge, Reginald G.
  • Marston, James R.
  • Costanzo, C. Michael
  • et al.

This project (MOU276) represents the first third of a longer project concerning making cities more accessible to some disabled groups by addressing some problems associated with the use of public transit. (The other two-thirds of the larger project is continued as MOU343). The disabled groups targeted in this project include the vision impaired or blind, those with low vision who have difficulty reading distant signs, those who are developmentally disabled, dyslexic, or otherwise print handicapped, those who do not read the English language, the illiterate, and small children. The blind or vision impaired group alone represents about 4 million persons in the USA - about 4 times as many as the 1 million wheelchair users whose mobility needs have dominated ADA related expenditures to date on public transit. Consequently, we focused only on this particular population. Working in conjunction with a business partner, Talking Signs (r) Inc., we rented infra- red transmitters and receivers and set up experiments designed to test: (a) the ability of blind and vision impaired travelers to use the equipment; (b) to establish base line abilities for performing certain path following tasks; (c) to establish the nature of the difference between each subject's usual mode of guidance when traveling and movement guided by the auditory TS (r) technology; (d) to evaluate the ability of subjects to identify a particular bus among a stream of incoming buses; (e) to determine the extent to which the auditory TS (r) technology facilitated identification of a specific bus from among a set of buses waiting at a transfer point, and (f) to evaluate subjects perceptions of the use or difficulty of using auditory signs, to get their assessment of where such auditory signage should be located so as to make transit more accessible and to make other locations in the city more accessible. In this first phase 10 blind or vision impaired subjects were used as well as 10 blindfolded subjects whose usual guidance system was vision. The latter group simulated the performance of early blind people; the blind or vision impaired group represented people who used current state of the art mobility aids - such as guide dogs, cane users, and those who used echo location to identify obstacles. The initial base line experiments took place in an open field. Participants were guided three times around either a 60' x 60' square or 60' x 30' rectangle whose corners were identified by stanchions. In one condition, usual guidance aids were used (called WTS - "Without Talking Signs"), in the other, each stanchion was equipped with a Talking Signs (r) transmitter (called the TS condition). The two subject groups were termed "Blindfolded Sighted" (BS) and "Blind or Vision Impaired (B). In this experiment the blind or vision impaired group (B) found more stanchions and completed the task quicker than did members of the blindfolded sighted (BS) group, but neither performed well, finding only 14/120 (BS group) and 35/120 (B group) stanchions respectively. Using TS (r) technology, all subjects in both groups found all the stanchions and significantly reduced response times (i.e. travel time). In the second experiment, each member of the two groups was taken to the UCSB bus circle. Again WTS (Without Talking Signs) and a TS (with Talking Signs (r) ) conditions were defined. The task was to identify a particular bus (for Route 9) from among the incoming buses entering the bus circle, then to access either usual guidance mode or TS (r)

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