Seamless Wayfinding by Individuals with Functional Disability in Indoor and Outdoor Spaces: An Investigation into Lived Experiences, Data Needs, and Technology Requirements

Human wayfinding and navigation allow human beings to fully participate in the environment and are essential elements for leading healthy, economically sustainable, and full lives. People with disabilities, including individuals with blindness, deafblindness, visual impairment, and low vision, including those who use wheelchairs, constitute a sizable, growing minority of the general population yet continue to face significant barriers to community inclusion. It has been 29 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which is one of the most significant policies for promoting accessibility for people with disabilities in public spaces. It may be argued that while the ADA provides a framework for supporting minimum standards for access, it does not offer guidance for maximizing indoor to outdoor navigation or wayfinding for pedestrians. Although there have been significant advancements in the proliferation of wayfinding technologies, producers have not widely considered the unique access needs of individuals with visual impairments and deafblindness. In an initial analysis of themes from the literature and focus group research, Swobodzinski and Parker found that not only are their few accessible wayfinding options for people who are visually impaired and deafblind, technologies are not well-integrated and virtually none offer solutions for the seamless transition between indoor to outdoor spaces. This collaborative project will employ a mixed-method design to develop a saliency feature inventory for supporting effective wayfinding design for individuals with visual impairments, blindness, and deafblindness in urban environments. Drawing from the academic literature, the technical expertise of the American Printing House for the Blind, and engaging individuals with visual impairments ages 14 and older in focus groups, interviews, and structured travel observations, the research team will distill elements of personal and environmental affordances that support effective wayfinding experiences. The elements of environmental saliency will be discovered using both qualitative and quantitative methods, including survey instruments, interviews, participant observations, structured data assessments, digital mapping, and spatial data collection and analysis. Using Portland State University (PSU) as the pilot study site, the team will evaluate the validity and efficacy of the saliency feature inventory and wayfinding technology selection with constituents and expert advisors, sharing outcomes and insights iteratively with interdisciplinary networks. This project promises to drive forward the development of standards and innovation in mobile wayfinding as it relates to the integration of indoor and outdoor wayfinding and routing of visually-impaired, blind, and deafblind pedestrian travelers. Further it provides planners, designers, educators, researchers, practitioners and community members a working inclusive model to evaluate and scale on campus and communities.


    • English


    • Status: Active
    • Funding: $257262
    • Contract Numbers:



    • Sponsor Organizations:

      Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

      University Transportation Centers Program
      Department of Transportation
      Washington, DC  United States  20590

      American Printing House for the Blind

      1839 Frankfort Avenue
      Louisville, KY  United States  40206

      Portland State University

      1900 SW Fourth Avenue, Suite 175
      Portland, Oregon  United States  97201
    • Managing Organizations:

      Portland State University

      1900 SW Fourth Avenue, Suite 175
      Portland, Oregon  United States  97201
    • Project Managers:

      Hagedorn, Hau

    • Performing Organizations:

      Portland State University

      1900 SW Fourth Avenue, Suite 175
      Portland, Oregon  United States  97201
    • Principal Investigators:

      Swobodzinski, Martin

      Parker, Amy

    • Start Date: 20190801
    • Expected Completion Date: 20220930
    • Actual Completion Date: 0
    • USDOT Program: University Transportation Centers

    Subject/Index Terms

    Filing Info

    • Accession Number: 01710579
    • Record Type: Research project
    • Source Agency: National Institute for Transportation and Communities
    • Contract Numbers: NITC-1327, 69A3551747112
    • Files: UTC, RIP
    • Created Date: Jul 10 2019 8:36AM