NIDRR Wayfinding Grant

The NIDRR Wayfinding Grant, which began in 2001, researched and developed a hardware and software platform to provide accessible location and navigation information for blind and visually impaired users traveling in indoor and outdoor environments. A consortium of 6 organizations with investigators from academic institutions, research centers and industry collaborated on this project.

Project Accomplishments

  1. Created an effective user interface for blind and visually impaired users
  2. Developed a common hardware and software platform that exploits the Global Positioning System (GPS) and other current and emerging navigation technologies
  3. Integrated navigation aids that have been developed by Sendero Group LLC (GPS Talk) and by the UCSB/CMU group headed by Jack Loomis (the Personal Guidance System, or PGS). Each of these applications had strengths that were merged, updated, tested and maximized to provide the software core of the wayfinding platform.
  4. Released a commercial wayfinding product, see the Sendero Group website for more information.
  5. For navigating in outdoor environments, the developed system aids blind pedestrians at complex intersections and roundabouts. Led by Western Michigan University, the team analyzed the wayfinding information needed at intersections and worked with the transportation industry to develop common design and communications linkages to the integrated platform.
  6. The research component fueled the ongoing development activities. The research addressed five issues: (1) assessment of user needs in connection with large-scale and small-scale orientation, (2) indoor wayfinding, (3) wayfinding outdoors and in the transition between indoors and outdoors, with an emphasis on the user interface, (4) analysis of the information needed for efficient travel through traffic intersections and roundabouts and evaluation of different ways of displaying that information, and (5) assessment of veering performance, one key aspect of small-scale orientation.
  7. Research on user needs included focus group meetings and surveys with blind individuals. Experimental research on indoor wayfinding focused on signage and other systems that provide information about the locations of specific building features. Outdoor wayfinding was studied by asking blind pedestrians to perform everyday tasks like finding target destinations. Interface issues included whether spatialized inputs add to the wayfinding capabilities provided by spatial language alone and the relative advantages of keyboard and voice inputs. Other research tested the intersection databases in conjunction with the integrated system in real-world wayfinding and evaluated mechanisms for assessing veer.

Key Personnel

Michael May, Principal Investigator

Charles LaPierre, CTO

Robert Reis, a Sendero engineering consultant

Dr. Jack Loomis is a professor of psychology at UCSB.

Dr. Reginald Golledge is a professor of geography at UCSB

Dr. Jim Marston is a researcher at UCSB.

Dr. Roberta Klatzky is the Head of the Psychology Department at Carnegie Mellon University

Dr. William Crandall

David Guth is a professor of blind rehabilitation at WMU and an O&M instructor

John Gesink is WMU Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Dr. Paul Ponchillia is Chair of WMU's Department of Blind Rehabilitation

Dr. Richard Long is a WMU assistant professor of blind rehabilitation

Dr. Gordon Legge is a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Minnesota

Dr. Nicholas Giudice received his Ph.D. in Cognitive and Biological Psychology from the University of Minnesota

Dr. Bosco Tjan received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from UM

Paul Beckmann received his Master's in biophysics, and his Ph.D.

Janet Barlow has been an O&M instructor for 25 years and is active in the transportation engineering community.