Navigating Urban Spaces: Indoor & Outdoor Wayfinding Technology for Vision-Impaired People

posted on Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Navigating an unfamiliar place is uniquely challenging for people with disabilities. People with blindness, deafblindness, visual impairment or low vision, as well as those who use wheelchairs, can travel more independently in urban areas with the aid of effective wayfinding technology. A new report from the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) explores how to leverage low-cost methods to enable people to more easily move through public, urban indoor and outdoor spaces.

The study, led by Martin Swobodzinski and Amy Parker of Portland State University, used focus groups, two case studies, and an in-person structured wayfinding experience on the PSU campus to find the most helpful ways of getting around. Tactile maps were found to be a very useful resource, with an accessible mobile app also showing promise as an orientation and mobility aid.

The researcher will share more details about this project in a free webinar on December 15: Individual Wayfinding in the Context of Visual Impairment, Blindness, and Deafblindness.

WHY IS THIS RESEARCH IMPORTANT?

Environments and...

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Alonso Carrillo is a dual masters student studying urban planning and real estate development at the University of Arizona (UA), and the recipient of a 2022 fellowship from the UA Center for Applied Transportation Sciences. He is also a 2023 Transportation Research Board (TRB) Minority Student Fellow, and will present his research at the annual meeting of TRB in January. Alonso earned his bachelor's degree in architecture from UA in 2019, and has also worked as a junior designer at MASON Architects.

Connect with Alonso on LinkedIn


Tell us about yourself?

My name is Alonso Carrillo, I received my bachelor’s degree in architecture at the University of Arizona in 2019 and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area for a short period of time within the architecture field. Since then, I have returned to the University of Arizona to continue my education and expand my knowledge around planning and the built environment. Currently, I am enrolled in a dual master’s program for Urban Planning and Real Estate Development.

What (or who) has influenced your career path in transportation?

During my time working as an architectural designer in the San Francisco area, I noted that many high-end developments were located along the BART/Caltrain stations which gives their residents the ability to rely on...

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How can relocating homeless services away from a downtown center change transportation patterns for people experiencing homelessness? Researchers Sarah Canham, Jeff Rose, Shannon Jones, Alannah Clay and Ivis Garcia of the University of Utah (UU) have published an article in the September 2022 issue of Health & Social Care in the Community.

The article, "Community perspectives on how decentralising an emergency shelter influences transportation needs and use for persons experiencing homelessness," offers evidence to support the need for no-cost transportation options for persons experiencing homelessness.

The findings draw on the ongoing project Understanding the Impact of Decentralizing Homeless Services on Transportation and Mobility in Salt Lake County, funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC).

Despite steady increases in homelessness in the U.S., only recently has research on transportation needs for persons experiencing homelessness been the focus of research endeavours. To fill this gap in the literature, the research team conducted a qualitative study in which 24 professionals working in planning, transportation, local government, and the homelessness services sector were engaged in in-depth, semi-structured interviews.

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Researchers Ivis Garcia, Sadika Maheruma Khan, and Kevin Fagundo-Ojeda of the University of Utah with Miriam Abelson and Nicholas Puczkowskyj of Portland State University have published a new article in the November 2022 issue of Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment.

Scholarship on gendered mobilities has shown that women experience transit differently than men do, particularly regarding personal safety. The article, "Harassment of low-income women on transit: A photovoice project in Oregon and Utah," makes a unique contribution to this body of literature because it shows that women feel targeted also based on their racial or ethnic identity and not only their gender. The article discusses women’s actions every day to increase their sense of safety.

Research has shown that low-income women who are...

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Researchers Jennifer Dill, Jiahui Ma, Nathan McNeil, Joseph Broach and John MacArthur of Portland State University have published a new article in the November 2022 issue of Transportation Part D: Transport and Environment. The open-access article, "Factors influencing bike share among underserved populations: Evidence from three U.S. cities," examines bike share use and interest among lower-income residents and people of color in New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

There is evidence that lower-income and people of color (POC) in the U.S. do not use bike share as much as higher-income and white people. Using data from residents living near bike share stations in New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, the paper examines reasons for these disparities. Researchers looked at many factors that might explain bike share use and interest in lower-income, racially diverse, traditionally underserved neighborhoods. They focused on residents who live near bike share stations, so that proximity would not be a barrier.

A few key findings:

  1. People who are not members, but are interested in using bike share, including POC, are motivated to use bike share for fun, recreation, and social reasons (as opposed to utility).
  2. Knowledge of bike share and receiving information from interactive sources (for example,...
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When the COVID-19 pandemic first swept across North America and led to emergency shutdowns during the spring of 2020, the way people acquired food and household necessities was dramatically impacted. As stay-at-home orders minimized personal travel, transit services were reduced and many stores and restaurants either closed or modified their operations. 

Some of the gaps were filled by online retailers and delivery services. However, access to goods and services varied substantially depending on people's age, income level, and ability.

A new multi-university study funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), the U.S. DOT-funded university transportation headquartered at Portland State University, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) captured how households responded as local, state, and federal governments imposed and lifted restrictions, brick-and-mortar establishments closed and reopened, and e-commerce and delivery services adjusted to the changing conditions.

The findings of this research are critical for emergency planning, but also for understanding the ever-changing mechanisms used to access retail and service opportunities (whether in person or online). The research identifies opportunities for future interventions to remedy barriers to accessing food, which will...

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Anna Maki is a second-year masters student in the City and Metropolitan Planning department at the University of Utah. She currently works as a graduate research assistant for the university, and as a transit community outreach and marketing intern at Park City Municipal Corporation. Anna is serving as president of Point B, UU's student transportation group, for the 2022/23 academic year, and has also worked as an active transportation intern for UU's sustainability office. She earned her BS in environmental studies from Utah State.

Connect with Anna on LinkedIn


Tell us about yourself?

I moved from Boise, Idaho to Utah in 2013 and have lived, and adventured, in Salt Lake City for the past five years. I’m currently in my second year of the Metropolitan Planning (MCMP) program and am working as a research assistant creating a walkability audit with an instructional module to be taught in the U’s classrooms. I’ll also be collaborating with the Wasatch Front Regional Council on conducting a walkability and urban design audit in South Salt Lake.

What (or who) has influenced your career path in transportation?

I grew up with great access to the outdoors, which generated an interest in sustainability, accessibility, and bicycling. This in turn led me to an active transportation internship with the University of Utah’...

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Travel time reliability – or the consistency and dependability of travel times from day to day, and at different times of day – is a key metric that significantly affects people’s travel behavior. Since businesses rely heavily on transportation systems, an unreliable transportation network can also impact the economic competitiveness of urban areas. As such, reliable travel times are important for transportation agencies to promote economic stability within a community. Having accurate methods to evaluate reliability is important for both transportation practitioners and researchers.

A new report from Portland State University offers an improved method for determining the confidence interval of travel time reliability metrics. Researchers Avinash Unnikrishnan, Subhash Kochar and Miguel Figliozzi of PSU’s Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science used a highway corridor in Portland, Oregon as a case study to evaluate their method, and found that it compared favorably with other methods of evaluating the confidence interval of travel time reliability metrics.

"Traffic engineers can apply this method to come up with a range of estimates for the unknown true travel time reliability metric. The travel time reliability metrics calculated by traffic engineers and transportation planners will have variability due to factors such as road...

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How can community members become more engaged in transportation decision making?

Individuals and groups can learn to effect powerful change, but success requires some familiarity with how civic processes work. Community Transportation Academies, or CTAs, provide a basic technical understanding of how a city or region’s transportation system operates, along with the decision makers and decision-making processes that determine how the system is shaped.

Supported by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), the new Wasatch Transportation Academy (WTA) at the University of Utah was piloted in 2022 in the Salt Lake City region. The research team developed a course vision, topics, and logistics for the WTA by interviewing stakeholders in the Utah Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, the Utah Department of Transportation, the Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, and the Wasatch Front Regional Council. Led by Nathan McNeil of Portland State University and Keith Bartholomew of the University of Utah, the WTA used the established Portland Traffic and Transportation class in Portland, Oregon as a framework. 

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Researchers Chandler Smith, Orhon Myadar, Nicole Iroz-Elardo, Maia Ingram and Arlie Adkins of the University of Arizona have published a journal article in the July 2022 issue of the Journal of Transport Geography.

The article, "Making of home: Transportation mobility and well-being among Tucson refugees," is accessible online for free until September 22. It examines mobility challenges that refugees in Tucson, Arizona experience after their resettlement. 

Refugee issues have been brought to the forefront of political and public debate in recent years, and refugee households face many challenges when integrating into new homes and communities, including challenges related to mobility, accessibility, and the availability of transportation options. The study specifically focuses on refugee communities who have resettled in the city of Tucson, Arizona. Arizona has has been one of the top refugee-receiving states in the nation. Tucson alone is currently home to at least 11,500 refugees representing 50 countries and speaking 45 languages.

Using qualitative and quantitative data collected from interviews and survey data, the researchers argue that mobility shapes the ways refugees foster social connections, attain employment and access educational opportunities. Accordingly, barriers to mobility negatively impact...

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Ebonie Kinney graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington in August 2022 with a masters in social work. During her time at UTA, she worked as a graduate research assistant with faculty advisor Dr. Anne Nordberg on research to improve public transit and transportation access for people experiencing homelessness. Ebonie earned her BA in psychology from Baldwin Wallace University, and plans to become a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) working with vulnerable and disadvantaged populations.

Connect with Ebonie on LinkedIn


Tell us about yourself?

My name is Ebonie Kinney and I recently graduated with my Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington with a concentration in Direct Practice with Children and Families. I am particularly passionate about advocating for marginalized and underserved populations. During my time at UTA, I served as a graduate research assistant; coauthoring a research publication that highlighted the healthcare disparities for persons of color in long-term care facilities. I also served as a graduate student leader in which I acted as a liaison on behalf of students; helping them navigate through the Master of Social Work program.

What (or who) has influenced...

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