TRCLC 15-4: Travel Behavior of Blind Individuals before and after Receiving Orientation and Mobility Training
PI: Dae Kim, Western Michigan University
Objective: The primary objectives of the proposed study are to produce immediate knowledge about the actual travel behaviors of blind individuals and to objectively and subjectively evaluate the effectiveness of an intensive course of Orientation and Mobility training.
Background: Examination of the travel behaviors of pedestrians traditionally relied on subjective data supplied by the research participants in the form of travel diaries or surveys. However, recent studies of pedestrian travel have found disparities between subjective and objective measures of pedestrian activity. In addition, a Cochrane Review on research in the area of Orientation and Mobility (O&M) training for individuals with low vision indicates the need for quantitative assessment of the effectiveness of O&M training. Previous studies that examined the functional effects of O&M training reported mixed results. The use of new location and physical activity technologies, including Global Positioning Systems (GPS), accelerometers, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) will allow us to provide objective quantitative measures of blind individuals’ travel behavior and O&M training’s effectiveness.
Methods: Visually impaired travelers will be recruited from scheduled recipients of Leader Dogs for the Blind’s Accelerated Mobility Program. Prior to receiving the training, participants’ travel activities will be recorded objectively with a GPS data logger and accelerometer, while Difficulty with Mobility Questionnaire (DMQ-23) will be administered and travel diaries will be kept. Similar data will be collected upon completion of the O&M training to evaluate the effectiveness of the training.
Implications: The expected outcomes of the study are knowledge of blind individuals’ actual everyday travel behavior and the effectiveness of an intensive course of O&M training. With the obtained knowledge, we may be able to recommend changes to current O&M training to allow more active, confident, and safe travel by blind individuals in their communities. For example, it may be that contemporary O&M instruction does not address some of the real travel needs of blind individuals that could be overcome with training. Or, to the contrary, it may be that we discover characteristics of the physical environment that inhibit access by blind pedestrians and are more amenable to mitigation through good planning (e.g., geometric design) than through O&M training.
Relevance to TRCLC Mission: This study’s objective is directly related to the Transportation Research Center for Livable Communities’ (TRCLC) research focus areas, which include understanding behavioral and cultural characteristics of the individuals (particularly those with blindness or low vision) living in the community. In particular, this study directly addresses the need to bring technological advances (e.g., incorporation and alignment of GPS, accelerometers, and GIS) into livable communities, which is one of the primary foci of the TRCLC.