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Supporting Accessibility for Blind and Vision‐impaired People With a Localized Gazetteer and Open Source Geotechnology

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Abstract:

Abstract

Disabled people, especially the blind and vision‐impaired, are challenged by many transitory hazards in urban environments such as construction barricades, temporary fencing across walkways, and obstacles along curbs. These hazards present a problem for navigation, because they typically appear in an unplanned manner and are seldom included in databases used for accessibility mapping. Tactile maps are a traditional tool used by blind and vision‐impaired people for navigation through urban environments, but such maps are not automatically updated with transitory hazards. As an alternative approach to static content on tactile maps, we use volunteered geographic information (VGI) and an Open Source system to provide updates of local infrastructure. These VGI updates, contributed via voice, text message, and e‐mail, use geographic descriptions containing place names to describe changes to the local environment. After they have been contributed and stored in a database, we georeference VGI updates with a detailed gazetteer of local place names including buildings, administrative offices, landmarks, roadways, and dormitories. We publish maps and alerts showing transitory hazards, including location‐based alerts delivered to mobile devices. Our system is built with several technologies including PHP, JavaScript, AJAX, Google Maps API, PostgreSQL, an Open Source database, and PostGIS, the PostgreSQL's spatial extension. This article provides insight into the integration of user‐contributed geospatial information into a comprehensive system for use by the blind and vision‐impaired, focusing on currently developed methods for geoparsing and georeferencing using a gazetteer.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9671.2012.01318.x

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography and Geoinformation Science, George Mason University 2: Department of Geography, University of Calgary

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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