A.K. Lobben1, M.M. Lawrence1, S. Fickas2

1 - University of Oregon, Department of Geography

2 - University of Oregon, Department of Computer and Information Science


This abstract summarizes a methodology/experimental design paper. We contend that links may be developed between cognitive map-based research that has been conducted with sighted subjects and applied to similar research with blind subjects. While cartographers are still beginning to understand not only the tasks, but also the strategies and abilities associated with navigational map reading, very few of the results (or even the methods) have been applied to tactile map research.


We hypothesize that a link can be found between (a) predictor tasks and (b) map reading for the blind population. In our experiment, designed to test this hypothesis, several tasks are developed and identified as predictor tasks. The methodology includes administering a battery of in-laboratory and in-environment tests. Subjects perform these tests as well as a navigational (validation) exercise. Results are analyzed between predictor test performance and navigational exercise results. We expect the analysis of these results will reveal relationships between predictor variables, themselves, and relationships between predictor variables and overall navigational map reading. Predictor tasks are grouped in three categories: general spatial abilities tasks, map use tasks, and navigation tasks.


Geometric object rotation (a general spatial abilities task) has been shown in previous studies to be a potential predictor of map rotation strategy, though, not a predictor of navigational map reading performance. However, while a persons ability to mentally rotate a map may not be a significant predictor in sighted map user experiments, the relationship between rotation and navigational map reading by blind map navigators is not known. Moreover, rotating Braille text has been shown to pose complications with tactile maps, diagrams, and text displays. These complications are not found in research involving sighted map users.


The second category is map use tasks. When administered in-laboratory, they typically include estimates of distance and direction. In addition, pre- and post in-field navigation tests of spatial (map) memory are considered. These memory assessments gauge not only the influence of spatial memory on navigational map reading performance, but also reveal the affects of active environmental navigation on spatial memory.


The final category is navigation tasks. These tasks are performed in the environment while actively navigating and include, again, the traditional distance and direction estimates as well as self-location tasks. In previous research with sighted navigators, the strongest predictor of overall navigational map reading was self-location or the ability to identify their location on a map and the direction they are facing.