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for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Navigating a building for the first time?


I’m a student working on my thesis in product design, and I have a few questions I was hoping someone could help me with. My project is an exploration into the way finding process for blind people entering a new building for the first time. The tentative end result is a wearable device to help locate Braille in the various places it has been placed via audio cues or tactile feedback.

So first and foremost, is the problem I am seeking to address a major hurdle for people without sight? I simulated the experience with a few blindfolded classmates in our school, a building they were visually familiar with, and had no success using the current Braille signage. This experiment is my only proof of concept thus far, so any experiences that you could share with me, either for or against my case would be extremely helpful.

Secondly, in my research I have read a few opinions of people who have found Braille signage useless, due to the lack of ease in finding it. A device like the one I’m proposing would be useful as a Braille locator, but in terms of way finding, would there be any other features that you think I should work into the design?
In terms of the output from the device which would you prefer, an audio instruction or a tactile feedback (vibration for example)? If you chose audio, would you want it privately through an earpiece or would a speaker be better?
This project is being done with the hopes that it could become a reality within 5 years, so some limitations are being placed on it to maintain that timeframe. To start with this would be a local network built into an individual building, and would only function within that space, much like the buzzers used at restaurants for seating. This means that in order for someone to use the system, they would have to check in at a reception area and borrow the unit from the facility while they are there. Would this prevent anyone from using the system?
My study will be accompanied by an implementation plan and a look into the future expansion of the project to extend past a single building, with personal units being owned by individuals and used for a variety of situations. In my mind this is the ideal way of doing this, unfortunately this takes mass adoption and standardization. If this was to get to that point, would this type of device be something you would want to have? If so, how much would you expect to pay for such a product? Would cost be an issue or would the benefits outweigh the expense?
Alright, thanks for helping me out. I really appreciate you taking the time to read this and any feedback you could give me would be fantastic. One last thing, if you could identify yourself by name plus email and your general location (city and state) that would be perfect.

Thanks so much,

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Re:Navigating a building for the first time?

The first thought that came to mind is that same logic used by the GPS device where one can program routes and directions and follow the audio guides as one navigates around. Such that, every building (according to classification) will have an auditory device readily available (in a designated place as maybe outlined by the City Building Officials for uniformity or standard) and which from that auditory device the blind person can get instructions as to where to get a sort of audio GPS guide, a kind of gadget which he/she will carry inside the building. The audio GPS guide will give a brief description of the rooms/offices found within the building and its locations respectively, and lead the person to his/her destination.

I hope this helps you. This is kind of a big thought though but why not.

Re:Navigating a building for the first time?

I am also a student studying to improve the life of the blind. My idea was concerning hallways in schools. Is/ was it easy( for those visually impaired respondents) to navigate the school hallways.

Re:Navigating a building for the first time?

I am completely blind, and the hardest thing about entering a new buliding is finding the right room. I cant just walk by and find the right room like a sighted person can. A lot of places have the room numbers in braille but are sometimes hard to find, i have to feel around for them at each room. Also entering a public bathroom can be a challenge. again, finding the braille to find out which bathroom you belong in and finding your way around the bathroom once your in. Something audio would be nice.

Re:Navigating a building for the first time?

I have low vision and find navigating new buildings a bit difficult, especially when there are room numbers involved, since I can't just walk and view room numbers with ease. In my opinion, a system that would recognize room number signage and verbally say the room number (in an earpiece), would be most beneficial, since I could walk in a straight line and not have to stop by every door and figure out what the room number is. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me. My e-mail address is Good luck!

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