We realize there might still be some skeptics out there, so this page will outline the major benefits of having accessible GPS systems.
Rena Weaver Wyant, O&M Specialist, wrote an informative article on what it is like to travel without vision called, Moving Blindly Through a Visually Oriented World
Accessible GPS eliminates an enduring travel barrier experienced by individuals who are blind and visually impaired. Without the ability to see surrounding location information, such as street signs and landmarks, it is difficult for a blind person to determine the accurate direction to travel and to efficiently move from place to place.
Other common obstacles to independent travel for blind individuals are difficulty determining when they have arrived at a particular destination and having limited access to information about the businesses and other features along the way. This can be contrasted with the vast amount of location information sighted people have access to when traveling by virtue of simply being able to look around.
To put this into a real world scenario, imagine traveling on a bus to get to an important business meeting. You know the address of the building but cannot get your bearings because you do not know the exact address of the bus stop. As is common on many suburban streets, there is no one to ask and your guide dog is silent. You are now facing a barrier to location information that blind people experience every day. The inability to know location information can often result in fear, reluctance to leave one's home or known routes, and a consequent withdrawal from major life participation in work, family and community.
Beyond the obvious Orientation and Mobility benefits of GPS, which is very directly related to obtaining a job. The better a person gets around, the better he or she will be prepared for obtaining a job, maintaining that job and advancing a career. This can be accomplished through a combination of tools like mobility instruction and GPS navigation. Like sighted folks, blind people need to get around effectively and GPS provides the equivalent of print signs as well as voice or Braille navigation assistance.
Accessible GPS systems have millions of points of interest along with the street maps. Think of it like electronic yellow pages with locations attached to each of those points. With this tool, a blind person can conduct geographic research for a place to live, to go to school or to work, completely on their own.
The benefit of GPS for outdoor wayfinding has been formally researched by Paul Ponchillia of Western Michigan University. This research consisted of three studies using Sendero GPS in different scenarios. One of the studies, which utilized a single subject alternating treatment design, involved disorienting participants in a familiar two by four block residential neighborhood and then measuring the time it took for them to identify their location with and without the use of Sendero GPS. On average, it took nearly eight times as long to get reoriented without the Sendero GPS as compared to when it was used. In a second study, the same participants were able to find a particular house at a distance of approximately two and one-half blocks from their starting point in half the time with the device than without it. A third study, which used a within subjects group design, demonstrated that Sendero GPS users were 95% successful in locating a target in a large open area compared to only 10% without GPS assistance. (Ponchillia, 2006)