Seamless Wayfinding by a Deafblind Adult on an Urban College Campus: A Case Study

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Portland State University researchers Martin Swobodzinski and Amy Parker, with student co-authors Julie Wright, Kyrsten Hansen and Becky Morton, have published a new article in Frontiers in Education: "Seamless Wayfinding by a Deafblind Adult on an Urban College Campus: A Case Study on Wayfinding Performance, Information Preferences, and Technology Requirements."

The article reports on an empirical evaluation of the experience, performance, and perception of a deafblind adult participant in an experimental case study on pedestrian travel in an urban environment. The case study assessed the degree of seamlessness of the wayfinding experience pertaining to routes that traverse both indoor and outdoor spaces under different modalities of technology-aided pedestrian travel. Specifically, an adult deafblind pedestrian traveler completed three indoor/outdoor routes on an urban college campus using three supplemental wayfinding support tools: a mobile application, written directions, and a tactile map.

Results indicate that wayfinding performance and confidence differed considerably between the three wayfinding support tools. The tactile map afforded the most successful wayfinding and highest confidence. Wayfinding performance and confidence were lowest for the mobile application modality.

The simplicity of use of a wayfinding tool is paramount for reducing cognitive load during wayfinding. In addition, information that does not match individual, user-specific information preferences and needs inhibits wayfinding performance. A substantial engagement of the deafblind community in both research and development is critical for achieving universal and equitable usability of mobile wayfinding technology.

Parker and Swobodzinski have partnered on two previous projects funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), and this paper builds on findings from their research. The first project, A Comprehensive Examination of Electronic Wayfinding Technology for Visually Impaired Travelers in an Urban Environment, was completed in 2019 and provided an overview of existing mobile wayfinding technology as well as insights from focus groups with users. The second, Seamless Wayfinding by Individuals with Functional Disability in Indoor and Outdoor Spaces: An Investigation into Lived Experiences, Data Needs, and Technology Requirements, is in progress now.

Photo by Halfpoint/iStock

The Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) at Portland State University is home to the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), the Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation (IBPI), and other transportation programs. TREC produces research and tools for transportation decision makers, develops K-12 curriculum to expand the diversity and capacity of the workforce, and engages students and professionals through education.

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