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In our everyday lives the fundamental role played by sensory systems, such as vision, hearing, and touch, is often taken for granted. Most of the information for the cognitive mapping of spaces used by people who are sighted is gathered through the visual channel. Unfortunately, people who are blind or have low vision lack the ability to collect the required visual information either in advance or in-situ. Indeed, for people who are blind an unknown environment can be unpleasant, uncomfortable, and unsafe even after extensive orientation and mobility rehabilitation training. In this study we developed a new virtual environment system for people who are blind to aid them in their anticipatory exploration and cognitive mapping of unknown environments. The two main goals of the study were: (1) to develop and assess an integrated haptic and audio virtual environment system though which people who are blind can explore a virtual map of an unknown real space and (2) to study the cognitive mapping process of people who are blind when using the virtual environment. The findings supply strong evidence that interaction with the BlindAid system by people who are blind provided a robust foundation for the participantspsila development of comprehensive cognitive maps of real unknown spaces. In conjunction with these results, the userspsila performance within the virtual environment supplied an assessment tool for orientation and mobility specialists. (Supported by a grant from National Eye Institute, NIH.).
Virtual Rehabilitation, 2008
Date of Conference: 25-27 Aug. 2008