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U of MNUniversity of Minnesota
Center for Transportation Studies

Spatial Cognition of the Blind and Visually Impaired While Using a Mobile Accessible Pedestrian System (MAPS) at Signalized Intersections

Principal Investigator:

Chen-Fu Liao, Senior Systems Engineer, Civil, Environmental and Geo-Engineering

Project Summary:

The blind and visually impaired (VI) rely heavily on walking and public transit to meet their transportation needs. A major challenge for this population is safely crossing intersections. As a result of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), Accessible Pedestrian Signal (APS) systems at signalized intersections have improved significantly since 2000. However, these systems still have shortcomings for both users and municipalities, and new approaches are needed to adequately serve pedestrians with low vision. As part of our ongoing effort to develop a prototype Mobile Accessible Pedestrian Signal (MAPS) application for the blind and VI, we interviewed ten blind and low-vision people to better understand what types of information they use at intersection crossings and to identify information that could assist them. With these survey results, a MAPS prototype was developed that provides signal and intersection geometry information to smartphone users at signalized intersections. User interaction is via simple tactile input (single or double tap) and text-to-speech (TTS) technology. A MAPS prototype was developed and tested to evaluate the functionalities of providing signal and orientation information to the visually impaired travelers at signalized intersections. This research built upon the developed MAPS system and investigated how blind and low-vision individuals gain their spatial knowledge surrounding an intersection and how MAPS can be used to support their decision-making strategy at intersection crossings.

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