187
9
The NavPal Suite of Tools for Enhancing
Indoor Navigation for Blind Travelers
M. Bernardine Dias
Abstract: In this chapter, we describe our vision for computing technology
tools that can enhance the safety and independence of blind and visually
impaired (B/VI) people navigating unfamiliar indoor environments. We
describe the overall road map for our work, along with the research to date
on each component of this road map. This set of tools, known as “NavPal,
combines a variety of techniques and technologies including robots, crowd-
sourcing, advanced path planning, and multimodal interfaces. All of these
tools and the framework have been informed, tested, and endorsed by many
B/VI adults and by several orientation and mobility (O&M) experts.
9.1 Introduction
Assistive technology plays a key role in the independence and safety of
people with disabilities. For B/VI people, appropriately designed and
CONTENTS
9.1 Introduction ................................................................................................ 187
9.2 Trip Planning and Accessible Maps ........................................................190
9.3 Familiarization and Route Planning ....................................................... 193
9.4 Transit Assistance, Dynamic Guidance, and Seeking Assistance ......195
9.5 Annotating Maps and Sharing Information .......................................... 198
9.6 Conclusions and Design Guidelines ....................................................... 200
Acknowledgments .............................................................................................. 201
References .............................................................................................................202
188 Indoor Wayfinding and Navigation
well-implemented assistive technology can additionally make a signicant
difference in education, social acceptance, and productivity. We have been
working with B/VI communities around the world on a variety of assistive
technology projects for almost a decade, with a more recent focus on tech-
nology tools for waynding and navigation. Given the availability of some
tools to assist B/VI travelers with navigation in outdoor environments, our
focus has primarily been on indoor environments and scenarios that neces-
sitate transitions between outdoor and indoor environments. Because visual
impairments can vary widely, the corresponding needs and preferences for
tools and interfaces can also vary accordingly. Our work addresses this wide
range of needs and preferences by exploring a suite of relevant tools that
can accommodate several options for customization by users. Our approach
also recognizes the current limitations of technology and the capabilities of
the B/VI travelers by designing assistive mechanisms that value input from
humans and therefore are essentially human-machine solutions. Another key
element of our approach is a strong focus on needs assessment and iterative
design with relevant user communities, as shown in Figure9.1. Therefore, the
problems we address in assistive navigation and the tools we design are heav-
ily inuenced by feedback from a variety of users in the B/VI community and
relevant O&M experts.
Findings from our needs assessment revealed several concerns of B/VI
travelers. First, they preplan their navigation routes as much as possible and
need to build a mental map of the new environment they will be navigating.
Once in a given indoor space, they need to orient themselves in that location
so they can identify where they are at any given time. Next, they need to g-
ure out how to navigate to and from the location(s) of interest from a known
environment. They also need to be informed of dynamic changes to the
unfamiliar environment that may impact their safe navigation. Furthermore,
they need to be able to “record” their navigation experience for future trips
and also potentially share this information with others who might nd it
FIGURE9.1
Needs assessment and iterative user testing with B/VI people.

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