Using open source mapping tools to understand indoor navigation routes suitable for vision impaired users

With limited vision to perceive the environment, independent wayfinding and navigation in unfamiliar environments is a difficult task for vision impaired (VI) people. Wayfinding in complex indoor environments is more difficult with many constraints such as unsuitable walkable areas for guide dogs or white canes users, large empty spaces without guidance for wall tracing , crowded areas which may act as obstacles etc. The challenges faced by a completely blind person would be severe than that faced by a person with some limited vision. The physical inabilities combined with vision impairment can impose more challenges such as use of narrow corridors which restrict the use of a wheel chair. Therefore the indoor paths suitable for navigation for VI community would not be the paths suitable for other population as safety and comfort to navigating would be more important to them than the distance of the travel.

When deciding optimum paths and providing navigation instructions for VI users  detailed information of the built environment is required. Information related to accessibility, safety and information about visual and non-visual landmarks would be useful for given orientation support. Semantically rich data with higher granularity, for example the location of doors, their width and direction of opening, details of artefacts of the environments such as monuments which can act as obstacles would be some data items required.

However, availability of such rich indoor data in public domain is very limited. First, we identify building data items useful for navigation aids for VI users considering orientation and mobility understanding.  Then we are attempting to use Indoor OSM  with Simple Indoor Tagging to map few sample buildings in Curtin University, Perth  with varying complexity to understand and visualise the suitable indoor navigable paths and navigation instructions for VI people. IndoorGML based navigable routes are derived based on this understanding, considering different user capabilities. Instead of a general VI user, groups of user profiles are created and suitable paths for different categories are investigated. QGIS, Indoor OSM and IndoorGML editors are used for generating the required data sets.

Though the primary goal of this data set is to use for better understanding of navigation route planning for VI people, they would be later used for testing optimum path planning algorithms for VI users in indoor environment.  Such route planners can be used in indoor navigation aid for VI indoor traveller when combined with proper positioning and localization techniques. The lessons learned and the challenges faced would be discussed in this relatively new experience which extend the regular building mapping to integrate vision impaired travellers perspective.

Presentation type: Full length
Session: State of the Map


Nimalika Fernando

I have been involved in FOSSGIS activities in Asian region for few years and now doing my studies at Perth and continue the same.. I was engaged in teaching and developing applications using FOSS GIS tools such as QGIS, PostGIS and web mapping with MapServer etc..Now my my main focus is in navigation and especially indoor navigation and landmark based navigation..