Today the long-awaited Smith-Kettlewell Wayfinding Survey went live. We announced the survey through a wide variety of O&M-related list serves, and will be reaching out to organizations which may be able to connect us with specific groups of blind and visually-impaired travelers.
The basic idea of the survey is to identify tools and techniques used by real, every-day, blind and visually-impaired pedestrians. We certainly know what the O&M professionals teach, but that is likely to be different from things that are actually taking place in the field. We wanted to know about how people manage travel planning, and what types of tools (GPS, tactile maps, the Internet, etc) people use to plan and navigate. We were also really interested in asking about additional disabilities that might impact wayfinding. We are conducting a couple of other investigations at Smith-Kettlewell that deal with impaired auditory perception and detection/identification of various acoustic landmarks that might be used in orientation. For example, how good are you at "hearing," doorways as you walk past them, and how do various types of hearing impairments impact or degrade one's performance at this kind of task? Thus, the S-K Wayfinding Survey will provide field-based information about how hearing disabilities intersect with visual disabilities in the context of orientation and mobility.
Because we're trying to reach a wide variety of people with visual disabilities across a broad range of age, ability, computer literacy, class, and education level, we have included a telephone component. People who want to take the survey by phone can call our hotline at (415)345-2013 to request a return call. We will return their call at a convenient time for the participant, read them the questions, and record their responses. Because of our particular interest in responses from people who also have hearing disabilities, we have a TTY number as well -- (415)345-2290.
We're hoping that this survey will allow us to identify specific needs in the areas of trip planning, orientation in large building interiors, and hearing enhancement technologies. The information obtained through the Smith-Kettlewell Wayfinding Survey will help guide our future plans for research and development in these areas. If you have questions about the survey, please e-mail the survey master.