Jacobson, R.D. (1996) Talking tactile maps and environmental audio beacons: An orientation and mobility development tool for visually impaired people, Proceedings of the ICA Commission on maps and graphics for blind and visually impaired people, 21-25 October, 1996, Ljubjiana, Slovenia.
Pedestrian navigation through the built environment is a fundamental human activity. Environmental scales may range from the micro, the room of a house, to the macro, a cityscape, for example. In order to navigate effectively through this range of environments visually impaired people need to develop orientation and mobility skills. Auditory beacons, accessed in a model as a talking tactile map and in the environment by beacons which transmit audio messages to a small receiver carried by the pedestrian, serve to integrate the model representation and the environment, and act as mobility and orientation development tool. This technical approach is assessed using a multi-task analysis of the cognitive maps of people using the system when learning a new route. Although analysis was not conclusive, those who used the system expressed great interest, suggesting that both maps and audio complimented and enhanced each other. This study demonstrates that access to audio beacons in environment and model leads to increased spatial comprehension and confidence about the route and shows the need for a mixture of quantitative and qualitative approaches when assessing cognitive mapping ability.