Way-finding strategies of blind persons in urban scale

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Abstract

The aim of this study was to determine whether urban environments with different prominent sensory inputs have an impact on the way-finding strategies of blind people and to identify these impacts, where applicable. We specifically investigated how blind people use their senses to compensate for the lack of visual information and how the priority of senses changes according to the urban context. The participants of the study consisted of nine congenitally blind individuals and the study took place in two urban settings: a dense urban district, Kemeralti district in İzmir; and an urban park, the İzmir Fair Park. During the learning phase, a first trial along the selected routes was conducted for each participant individually along with one of the researchers. In the test phase, the participants were requested to re-walk the route and verbally report the environmental cues they attended to. The participants' verbal reports were recorded and transcripts of the recordings were coded according to the environmental sensory inputs. In addition, the short-term memory of each participant was also evaluated. The results show that the characteristics of the urban environment seem to have an impact on way-finding strategies of blind individuals. It was found that the sound of the city and the echo from the environment are the most important factors for blind participants in the dense urban environment. Environmental boundaries provided echoes and gave a sense of enclosure that helped them orient themselves, whereas, in the park environment, the sense of enclosure was not enhanced due to a lack of boundaries in the environment.

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