Use of Auditory Cues and Other Strategies as Sources of Spatial Information for People with Visual Impairment When Navigating Unfamiliar Environments

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Mar 8;19(6):3151. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19063151.


This paper explores strategies that the visually impaired use to obtain information in unfamiliar environments. This paper also aims to determine how natural sounds that often exist in the environment or the auditory cues that are installed in various facilities as a source of guidance are prioritized and selected in different countries. The aim was to evaluate the utilization of natural sounds and auditory cues by users who are visually impaired during mobility. The data were collected by interviewing 60 individuals with visual impairments who offered their insights on the ways they use auditory cues. The data revealed a clear contrast in methods used to obtain information at unfamiliar locations and in the desire for the installation of auditory cues in different locations between those who use trains and those who use different transportation systems. The participants demonstrated a consensus on the need for devices that provide on-demand minimal auditory feedback. The paper discusses the suggestions offered by the interviewees and details their hopes for adjusted auditory cues. The study argues that auditory cues have high potential for improving the quality of life of people who are visually impaired by increasing their mobility range and independence level. Additionally, this study emphasizes the importance of a standardized design for auditory cues, which is a change desired by the interviewees. Standardization is expected to boost the efficiency of auditory cues in providing accurate information and assistance to individuals with visual impairment regardless of their geographical location. Regarding implications for practitioners, the study presents the need to design systems that provide minimal audio feedback to reduce the masking of natural sounds. The design of new auditory cues should utilize the already-existing imagination skills that people who have a visual impairment possess. For example, the pitch of the sound should change to indicate the direction of escalators and elevators and to distinguish the location of male and female toilets.

Keywords: auditory cues; mobility; natural sounds; visual impairment.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Auditory Perception
  • Cues*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Quality of Life*
  • Sound
  • Vision Disorders