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

Date Updated

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 to be used with devices specifically designed 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.

As GPS functionality becomes more sophisticated, a growing number of applications are available on both the iOS and Android mobile phone platforms. Often, mainstream applications offer some functionality for students who are blind, and specialized applications frequently offer an even richer experience. As more data about points of interest becomes available, students will be able to travel more independently, beyond what is currently possible in many cities.

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

Additional information, including links to more resources, is available in the DO-IT Knowledge Base article How does a student who is blind learn to navigate around campus?