A Virtual Map to Support People Who are Blind in Navigation through Real Spaces

Orly Lahav, David W. Schloerb, Siddarth Kumar, Mandayam A. Srinivasan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most of the spatial information needed by sighted people to construct cognitive maps of spaces is gathered through the visual channel. Unfortunately, people who are blind lack the ability to collect the required spatial information in advance. The use of virtual reality as a learning and rehabilitation tool for people with disabilities has been on the rise in recent years. This research is based on the hypothesis that the advance supply of appropriate spatial information (perceptual and conceptual) through compensatory sensorial channels within a virtual environment may assist people who are blind in their anticipatory exploration and cognitive mapping of the unknown space. In this long-term research we developed and tested the BlindAid system that combines 3D audio with a Phantom® haptic interface to allow the user to explore a virtual map through a hand held stylus. The main goals of this research were to study the cognitive mapping process of people who are blind when exploring complex virtual maps and how they apply this spatial knowledge later in real space. The findings supply strong evidence that interaction with the BlindAid system by people who are blind provides a robust foundation for the participants' development of comprehensive cognitive maps of unknown real spaces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-57
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Special Education Technology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


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