The project addresses the effects of learning method on route comprehension of visually impaired people, and it will determine if changes in geographic scale alter the effectiveness of selected learning media. An understanding of how different methods of learning affect route comprehension will allow current spatial knowledge acquisition theory and orientation and mobility training to be assessed and, if necessary, improved. Traversing space is one of the most cognitively demanding tasks faced by visually impaired people, and often invokes fear of being lost or disorientated. For these reasons there is a need to identify effective strategies of spatial learning that can contribute to the mobility and quality of life of visually impaired people. In the first experiment 24 visually impaired people will learn three short routes across a University campus (in counterbalanced order). Each route will be learned using a different learning method. The 24 subjects will be divided into 4 groups who will learn the route in a different order. The 3 conditions will be (1) pointing to places along the route, (2) making a map of the route, and (3) verbally describing the route. A further (control) group of ten visually impaired subjects will learn the route without any given strategy. Each trial will be video recorded. The three strategies selected are "off-route" strategies. Participants' route learning performance will be measured in several ways: the number of trials required to achieve successful route learning; number of errors made; types of errors; self-reported confidence measures; and assessment by independent judges of performance, hesitancy, and confidence. In the second experiment, 16 participants will learn a route 1.4 miles long through a complex urban environment. Participants will be divided into two conditions. In the first condition, they will learn the route using the most successful strategy from Experiment 1. In the second condition, they will learn the route using no given strategy. Sample sizes in both experiments are relatively small due to the difficulty of recruiting visually impaired participants, but the number of participants and number of trials will be greater than in previous experiments of way-finding and therefore should provide definitive results. By collecting data in a small-scale (university campus) and a large-scale environment (suburban neighborhood) we may find that spatial knowledge acquisition focuses on different cognition tasks at different scales. For the development of an effective orientation and mobility training program, these tasks may be operationalized via one or more simple geographic-based environmental learning procedures. The research addresses important theoretical questions relating to spatial learning and cognition, providing further insights into how visually impaired people construct, store, and utilize spatial knowledge. In so doing, it will address practical issues relating to the improvement of current orientation and mobility training.
Blades, M., Lippa, Y., Golledge, R.G., Jacobson, R.D., and Kitchin, R.M. (2002) Wayfinding by people with visual impairments: The effect of spatial tasks on the ability to learn a novel route. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness 96, 407-419.
Jacobson, R.D., Lippa, Y., Golledge, R.G., Kitchin, R.M., and Blades, M. (2001) Rapid development of cognitive maps in people with visual impairments when exploring novel geographic spaces. IAPS Bulletin of People-Environment Studies (Special Issue on Environmental Cognition) 18, 3-6.
Golledge, R.G., Jacobson, R.D., Kitchin, R.M., and Blades, M. (2000). Cognitive maps, spatial abilities, and human wayfinding. Geographical Review of Japan, ser. B: The English journal of the Association of Japenese Geographers, 73 (Ser.B) (2), 93-104.
Department of Geography, University of California at Santa Barbarba, USA
Department of Psychology, University of California at Santa Barbarba, USA
Department of Geography, Florida State University, USA
Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield, UK
Department of Geography, National University of Maynooth, Ireland