Leader: University of Macedonia
Project Coordinator: Dr. Eleni Koustriava
Vision loss influences negatively the development of spatial cognition and has detrimental effect on the acquisition of spatial knowledge. Blindness has a negative impact on the development of spatial skills. Moreover, visual experience influences decisively spatial behavior. The ability to make successful spatial decisions affects the quality of someone’s life to a great extent. Thus, research related to issues such as orientation, mobility, wayfinding and spatial knowledge of individuals with visual impairments (blindness or low vision), is considered very important.
The project focuses on the observation and analysis of the movement of individuals with visual impairments within the urban environment. In particular, the project’s aims are the following:
- Detailed recording and analysis of free movement (non-predefined routes) of individuals with blindness within the urban environment and comparison to the free movement of sighted individuals.
- Research on the relation between parameters of free movement of participants (blind and sighted individuals) and the elements/information included in their cognitive maps.
- Research on the contribution of the audio-haptic memory game to the quality of free movement of individuals with blindness within the urban environment.
- Research on the contribution of the audio-haptic memory game towards improving the quality of cognitive maps of people with blindness and consequently towards improving their spatial knowledge.
The project results are expected to have clear benefits for the scientific community. The new scientific findings of the project such as the information that will be gained by the analysis of movement characteristics of people with blindness can be used in the future for developing a more accessible urban environment responded to the needs of people with visual impairments. Furthermore, scientists will gain a better understanding of the potential of assistive technology applications to facilitate the spatial knowledge of people with visual impairments. Multisensory applications such as an audio-haptic memory game can be used as a virtual representation of a real space so as people with visual impairments not only to train their orientation and mobility skills but also to learn unfamiliar routes before visiting the environment.
The project results and their practical application will also have an important social impact as they will contribute to the mobility and independence of people with blindness. Moreover, the project results are expected to have a great impact on instructional programs and methods of special education teachers, orientation and mobility specialists, and rehabilitation specialists. The findings of the research project can contribute on the:
- Optimization of the urban environment design, in order the environment to be accessible to individuals with disabilities and in particular to individuals with visual impairments;
- Improvement of independent mobility of individuals with visual impairments within the urban environment through the: a) production of new orientation and mobility aids for individuals with visual impairments or the improvement and evolvement of existing ones; b) development of new software applications and hardware for facilitating orientation and mobility of individuals with visual impairments or the improvement of existing software applications and hardware; c) improvement of the techniques used by orientation and mobility specialists in their instruction/teaching classes.
The audio-haptic memory game and its utilization in the field of orientation and mobility of individuals with visual impairments, can be used in a range of academic and professional settings, including schools, rehabilitation settings etc. Except for the impact on people with blindness, the game application (audio-haptic memory game) can be useful, after customization, for people with dementia-related disorders or with mild cognitive development, as those people show a decline in their navigational skills. Such game applications can be also used as diagnostic tools for navigational impairment, having a positive impact on people at high-risk of declining their navigational skills.