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Universal Design Case Study: Indoor Wayfinding Systems Research, Italy

This case study was submitted by our colleague Isabella Tiziana Steffan, Studio Steffan-Design and author of
“Design for All. Il progetto per tutti” (2012), Vol.1-Vol.2, Ed. Maggioli, Santarcangelo di Romagna.


Secure and Safe Mobility NETwork for visitors who are visually impaired

Indoor Positioning Technologies Overview

  • Global Positioning System (GPS) (not very suitable for indoor spaces)
  • Localisation system by infrared rays (IR) An infrared rays transmitter is on the visitor, each room has a local sensor, a central server gives the right position of each object;
  • Localisation system by ultrasounds (US) ultrasound transmitters and receivers similar to previous system
  •  Localisation system by Radio-Frequency (RF)
    • Ultra Wide Band (UWB): high precision by radio impulses
    • Received signal strength indication (RSSI): a measurement by the power of the radio signals related with their distance
    • SESAMONET «SEcure and SAfe MObility NETwork»  for the navigation of the visually impaired
  • Localisation system by Computer Vision (CV) by monitoring the images and colour of the visitor

According to a feasibility research on “Innovative guide system for blind to allow total accessibility of exhibition area of the Omero Museum” Università Politecnica of the Marche Region, the best for blind guide system indoor are infrared rays, ultrasound and computer vision.


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Other wayfinding systems for blind people

QR CODE: a bar code-based system to help the visually impaired and blind people identify objects in the environment. The system is based on the idea of utilizing  QR codes (two-dimensional bar code) affixed to an object and scanned using a camera phone equipped with QR reader software. The reader decodes the bar code to a URL and directs the phone’s browser to fetch an audio file from Web that contains a verbal description of the object.

VIBROTACTILE FEEDBACK in mobile museum guides for blind users (indoor vibrotactile navigation): a wearable, low-cost, and effective system able to help blind users in unknown indoor environments that they might visit occasionally, such as hospitals, airports, museums, etc. The designed system implements a Bluetooth (BT) localization service, and provides wayfinding cues to the user by means of a wearable device equipped with five motors. The last part of our work describes early results obtained by the use of electroencephalographic (EEG) analysis to evaluate the vibrotactile feedback.

USER-ACTIVATED ENVIRONMENTAL AUDIO BEACONS (PING!) by Touch Graphics Company (2003): it improves accessibility to science museums for visitors who are visually impaired. The system, nicknamed Ping!, allows users to navigate an exhibit area, listen to audio descriptions, and interact with exhibits using a cell phone–based interface. The system relies on computer telephony, and it incorporates a network of wireless environmental audio beacons that can be triggered by users wishing to travel to destinations they choose. User testing indicates that the system is effective, both as a way-finding tool and as a means of providing accessible information on museum content. Follow-up development projects will determine if this approach can be successfully implemented in other settings and for other user populations.

ELECTRONIC WHITE CANE that helps moving around, in both indoor and outdoor environments, providing contextualized geographical information using RFID technology. The system, named SmartVision, whose global objective is to give blind users the ability to move around in unfamiliar environments, whether indoor or outdoor, through a user friendly interface that is fed by a geographic information system (GIS).

ROBOT-ASSISTED WAYFINDING in structured indoor environments. The system consists of a mobile robotic guide and small passive RFID sensors embedded in the environment. The system is intended for use in indoor environments, such as office buildings, supermarkets and airports.

BLINDAID Virtual Environment System for Self-reliant Trip Planning and Orientation and Mobility Traininng

Articles about wayfinding for blind people:

Improving visitor access

Priority needs in terms of museum service accessibility for visually impaired visitors

Cognitive mapping

Robotic guide

Tactile reading

Participatory approach to design a technology-enhanced museum tour for blind visitors

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