The Find Project: Introducing an Opportunity for Independence to the Visually Impaired
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The number of visually impaired (VI) people is expected to increase to unprecedented proportions in the near future due to an aging population and diabetes, the nation’s leading cause of blindness. An alternative to braille and embossed signage is needed as a VI person’s means of way-finding and indoor navigation. These traditional means of indoor navigation, in conjunction with current mobile assistive technology such as canes or guide dogs, do not provide all of the information a VI person could receive with current technology existing in industries, outside of mobile assistive technology (MAT) for VI people. This research examines the configuration of existing hardware and software technologies including a mobile application for VI people which interacts with a user’s physical environment to facilitate a more effective, independent, indoor navigation experience. The traditional experience of a VI person using braille or embossed signage for indoor navigation is replaced by The Find Project’s interactive technologies which guide a user through a physical space with visual and audible commands from a smartphone mobile device or Bluetooth® headset. Usability testing revealed the prototype’s effectiveness at assisting a VI person to independently navigate a physical space by lowering the number of errors the user committed moving through an unfamiliar space.