How can a student who is blind navigate in an unfamiliar area to do fieldwork?

DO-IT Factsheet #163

A number of tools and strategies are available that can make fieldwork accessible to students who are blind. Some of those tools - such as guide dogs - are already part of many students' lives. Others are easy to purchase. Braille compasses and talking compasses are readily available from online stores and, in combination with Braille or tactile maps, could be very effective for finding locations if students who are blind are instructed on how to use them.

Software and hardware for Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) for people who are blind can include Global Positioning Systems (GPS), wireless Internet, maps, and voice synthesizers that will tell students what landmarks are nearby and what streets they are on in cities. When outside of cities, they can get headings, speeds, and distances from waypoints.

There is a new tool, so far only available in Europe, that has GPS with improved navigation data to get people within two meters of a location. This new technology uses data relays through wireless Internet connections to overcome the "canyon effect," in which the satellites near the horizon are blocked by trees, rocks, or buildings.

For further information on navigation for students who are blind, consult the Institute for Innovative Blind Navigation [1].