Evaluation of the electronic long cane: improving mobility in urban environments

Hersh, M. A. and García Ramírez, A. R. (2018) Evaluation of the electronic long cane: improving mobility in urban environments. Behaviour and Information Technology, 37(12), pp. 1203-1223. (doi: 10.1080/0144929X.2018.1490454)

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A wide range of portable and wearable electronic travel aids have been developed to enable visually impaired people to move around public spaces without a sighted guide. However, few of them have gone beyond the prototype stage and the long cane and guide dog are still the main mobility aids. Despite the importance of evaluation to determine, for instance, effective functioning and end-user satisfaction, a standard approach has not yet been developed for mobility aids. The paper reports the evaluation of a low-cost electronic long cane, developed by the authors and colleagues in Brazil. It used a two-part methodology involving an experimental investigation of performance of the electronic long cane and a questionnaire to explore user satisfaction. The results of the experiments and questionnaire demonstrated both the cane’s usefulness and the need for modifications to improve its functioning. This work is also important for the development of methodologies for effective evaluation, as this is the first evaluation of a mobility device developed and carried out in Brazil. In addition, it is one of only a small number of evaluations in real locations with real obstacles. Finally, a series of recommendations for evaluating mobility devices is presented. What this paper adds? A standard approach to evaluating electronic travel for visually impaired people has not yet been developed and the most appropriate approach may depend on the objectives of the evaluation. Existing approaches generally use participants with no previous experience of using the device being evaluated and is carried out indoors with artificial obstacles. The training or device familiarisation period usually provided might be insufficient for participants to obtain optimal device performance or an effective comparison to be made of different devices. The approach to evaluating an electronic long cane reported in this paper has three main advantages over previous methods. The participants were experienced users of the electronic long cane who had been using it to support their daily mobility for at least a month. The evaluation was carried out in two different real urban environments with real obstacles. This has the advantages of being close to real-life cane use and participants being able to make informed comments and suggestions for improvements as a result of their experience. A questionnaire included questions on user satisfaction with and evaluation of a number of different cane features based on their experiences of cane use over a period. The work is also significant as the first detailed mobility device evaluation carried out in Brazil and in the presentation of a series of recommendations divided into themes for effective evaluation of mobility devices.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This research was supported by the Brazilian National Council of Scientific & Technological Development CNPq, [Grant Numbers 452293/2016-2,458672-2013/0].
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hersh, Dr Marion
Authors: Hersh, M. A., and García Ramírez, A. R.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering > Biomedical Engineering
Journal Name:Behaviour and Information Technology
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN (Online):1362-3001
Published Online:08 July 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 Informa UK Limited
First Published:First published in Behaviour and Information Technology 37(12):1203-1223
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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