Exploration of Unknown Spaces by People Who Are Blind Using a Multi-sensory Virtual Environment
Journal of Special Education Technology Volume 19, Number 3, ISSN 0162-6434
The ability to explore unknown spaces independently, safely and efficiently is a combined product of motor, sensory, and cognitive skills. Normal exercise of this ability directly affects an individual?s quality of life. Mental mapping of spaces and of the possible paths for navigating these spaces is essential for the development of efficient orientation and mobility (O&M) skills. Most of the information required for this mental mapping is gathered through the visual channel (Lynch, 1960). People who are blind lack this information, and in consequence they are required to use compensatory sensorial channels and alternative exploration methods (Jacobson, 1993). This research is based on the assumption that the supply of appropriate spatial information through compensatory sensorial channels, as an alternative to the (impaired) visual channel, may help to enhance the ability of people who are blind to explore unknown environments (Mioduser, in press). The research reported in this paper follows the assumption that the supply (via technology) of compensatory perceptual and conceptual information may contribute to effective acquaintance with unknown environments by people who are blind. A multi-sensory virtual environment (MVE) was developed and the exploration process of an unknown space by subjects who are blind using the MVE was studied.The main research questions of this study were: (1) What exploration strategies do people who are blind use working with the MVE, in comparison to those used by people whom are blind working directly in the real environment; (2) What characterizes the exploration processes used by people whom are blind working with the MVE, in comparison to the exploration processes used by people whom are blind working in the real environment; and (3) What information collection and storage did participants use, in both the experimental and control groups?
Lahav, O. & Mioduser, D. (2004). Exploration of Unknown Spaces by People Who Are Blind Using a Multi-sensory Virtual Environment. Journal of Special Education Technology, 19(3), 15-24.