While most of us take wayfinding and orientation for granted, instinctively utilizing our visual channels to do so, millions of blind people around the world face challenges and obstacles when attempting to perform the most basic tasks, such as walking to the corner store or using public transportation. As blind pedestrians lack critical information about the space they traverse outside the familiarity of their home, they are restricted, dependent on others, and have decreased quality of life. While assistive technologies for providing specific navigation solutions do exist, research is still limited regarding customized wayfinding solutions for blind pedestrians. This research aims at developing a wayfinding algorithm that relies on the OpenStreetMap mapping catalogue for planning accessible and safe routes specifically suited to blind pedestrians. In-depth investigations, observations, and interviews were conducted with blind people and with orientation and mobility instructors, in order to define and categorize spatial criteria relating to mobility, accessibility, and safety. Using controlled iterative experiments, weighted network graph criteria were defined, leading to the development of a route planning software that generates optimized routes for blind pedestrians. The developed software was then tested on a variety of routes, with the help of blind volunteers and orientation and mobility instructors. The results show that the optimal routes generated by the software were identical or very similar to those suggested by the experienced orientation and mobility instructors. Moreover, the blind volunteers also stated that the software planned routes were indeed more accessible and safer for them to walk along compared to routes suggested by existing commercial software developed for seeing pedestrians. The findings of this research indicate that our solution, based on OpenStreetMap and developed for the benefit of blind pedestrians, is effective and practical, and could improve the mobility, independence, and quality of life of this population, as well as increasing their integration into society.
Cohen, A., & Dalyot, S. (2020). Route planning for blind pedestrians using OpenStreetMap. Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science. https://doi.org/10.1177/2399808320933907