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Accessible Way-Finding using Web Technologies

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Accessible Way-Finding using Web Technologies

Accessible Way-Finding using Web Technologies

Accessibility of way-finding systems

  1. Accessible Wayfinding and + Accessible Maps (Guidelines, Mobile, Assistive Technologies)


  • Annika Nietzio, Research Institute Technology and Disability (FTB), Germany
  • Christos Kouroupetroglou, Caretta-Net Technologies, Greece
  • Vivienne Conway, Edith Cowan University, Web Key IT Pty Ltd, Australia

Categorization and Tags:

Accessible way-finding, navigation, exploration, indoor navigation,

Related topics:

Linked Pages:


Issues of way-finding, navigation and exploration of places are everyday challenges for many people with disabilities. The groups facing the biggest problems in the area are people with mobility and vision impairments and those people cognitive impairments. Currently, way-finding, navigation and exploration applications are increasing in popularity for a variety of other purposes such as in-car turn to turn navigation, lifestyle, gaming etc., especially due to the increasing trend in mobile computing. Mobile devices, with the variety of sensors they carry, allow for a number of such applications to be used. Moreover, maps today are being linked to a number of related dynamic information such as traffic and weather conditions. This trend poses a challenge for people with disabilities. If maps were linked with accessibility-related information, way-finding, navigation and exploration could be tackled with a number of different applications.

Creating accessible way-finding systems poses great opportunities to allow integration of web-based technology with spatial technology that is becoming so prevalent. Technology now allows hospitals to find out where a patient is currently located in the hospital, enabling efficient management of treatment, ensuring safety of new-born infants, and assisting patients and visitors to navigate to specific locations within the hospital. Technology such as Apple iBeacon (an indoor proximity system), is a Bluetooth-powered location system, allowing large organisations to incorporate economical way-finding systems. Additional questions include methods to ensure that people who needs these services are alerted to their availability. When a person approaches a traffic light there is often an audible sound alerting them when the intersection is safe to cross. On the floor in buildings and on stairs, there are specific markers that alert people with vision impairment of obstacles and dangerous situations. The question arises as to how we can alert people to the availability of accessible kiosks or way-finding services within a building or area. QR codes and specific applications have been developed that customers can download prior to attending an event which will allow them to find the best way to a specific location from their entry point. How then does a person with vision impairment access the information contained in these QR codes?

In addition, although GPS seems to dominate the outdoors navigation applications as a technology, a number of technologies are still battling in the area of indoor navigation and wayfinding. In addition, new geolocation technologies such as Glopos ( promise much better precision, improved reliability and seamless indoor and outdoors navigation. This raises more challenges for way-finding and navigation applications; the interoperability of navigation solutions in order to provide a seamless and accessible user experience to users.

Background and State-of-the-art:

Navigation involves two components: locomotion and wayfinding. Locomotion "refers to the (...) real-time part of navigation in which we move successfully in the direction we intend without (...) moving into obstructions." This aspect is particularly relevant for people with vision-impairments. Way-finding "refers to the requirement of where to go and how to get there." [MS2006]

Many of these technologies are readily available in current mobile devices and used for a variety of applications. As far as accesiblity is concerned there are mainly two types of applications that can be found.

  • Exploration applications where the user can explore a geographical area and find out places with specific accissibility related attributes that meet their needs.
  • Navigation applications where the user can get directions and guidance to reach a destination avoiding potential obstacles.

Accessibility of maps and wayfinding applications

[to be developed]

Fragentation of positioning technologies

A number of technologies can be used in localisation and positioning systems:

  • cameras, infrared, sound, radar, and magnetic localisation
  • WLAN / Wi-Fi, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), Bluetooth, celluar networks, and other radio frequency technologies
  • Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) like GPS
  • Inertial navigation systems using dead reckoning

[to be developed more]

Fragmentation of accessibility rating schemes

Some typical accessibility exploration applications available in the form of mobile or web applicaitons are the following:

The idea behind all these applications is similar. They allow users to rate accessibility features of a specific place based on a set of attributes (accessible entrance, spacious, parking space, etc). This way, each of them develops their own map of accessibility-related information. Some of them are using third-party providers such as OpenStreetMaps (Wheelmap), Foursquare (HumanAccess), etc. to get information about venues that exist in a place, while others allow users to provide that information (J' accede). Although limited, the field is already starting to experience fragmentation issues especially in terms of evaluating schemes. Each application uses its own scheme for assessing accessibility of a place employing different (yet more or less the same) attributes. Another issue that can be seen in this trend is the locality of each applications ratings. For example, J' accede is very popular in France whereas Wheelmap is being widely used in Germany and Rollout and Human Access in Greece. Fragmentation in map providers, accessibility rating schemes and locality leads to slower adoption rates for all and slower pace of innovation in the area. Facing these challenges could help boost innovation in the area and providing better, less limited services.

Future challenges and Research questions: (In the CFP, this will come out and be replaced by research questions)

Given the background and current state of the art there are 3 evident themes for future challenges and related reseach questions.

Accessibility of navigation systems

This theme deals with issues rlated to how accessible are currently navigation, wayfinding and explorations systems and how their accessbility can be improved. In particular some of the questions under this theme are:

  • How accessible are current way-finding systems for people with disabilities?
  • What methods are available to present information about the surroundings and navigation instructions in an accessible way with as little distraction as possible?
  • How can current standardization actions dealing with UI help in providing accessible navigation and wayfinding UIs?
  • How accessible are the notifications in way-finding systems, QR codes, alerts etc and how can they be improved?
  • How does user modeling tie in with way-finding systems?
  • Can the user preferences be included in such a system? (What some people might find useful (e.g. beep on approach), others would find annoying.)
  • How do I tell the system my preferences?

Linked and Open Data for Accessibility (of places)

This theme deals with issues related to how open and linked data can help in creating an accessbility map of the world. In particular, some of the questions under this theme are:

  • How can open-data be used to describe accessbility of places?
  • What kind of vocabularies, taxonomies etc already exist, such as in building codes that can be re-used?
  • How can we best develop navigational algorithms tying such accesbility information with user needs and profiles?
  • What sources of information can provide such data?
  • Is crowd-sourcing a potential solution for gathering such infromation and what are the limitations / problems?
  • What other sources of dynamic information could be used to provide complete solutions? (e.g. binding with calendar to get notifications and guidance to get to a meeting on time).

Interoperability of navigation and way-finding systems.

This theme deals with issues related to how web technologies could provide a common ground for navigation and wayfinding systems to work on and collaborate in order to provide a seamless experience even if they use a variey of positioning technologies such as GPS, iBeacons, WiFi triangulation etc. In particular, some of the questions under this theme are:

  • How can way-finding systems integrate into the web-based environment?
  • What methods are available to allow applications to maximize interoperability of geolocation technology?
  • Can there be one integrated web-based system to provide a common ground for different positioning technologies to cooperate?
  • How can open-data help in that direction?
  • Is it possible to seamlessly integrate indoor and outdoor way-finding combining different technologies?


Montello, D., & Sas, C. (2006). Human Factors of Wayfinding in Navigation. In International Encyclopedia of Ergonomics and Human Factors (p. 2003-2008). CRC Press/Taylor & Francis.
iBeacon for Hospitals - Using Bluetooth LE Beacons To Provide Wayfinding, Mapping and Clinical Care
Mobile Wayfinding With Connexient Medinav
Video Prompting and Indoor Wayfinding Based on Bluetooth Beacons
A Case Study in Supported Employment for People with Severe Mental Illness / Yao-Jen Chang, Yan-Ru Chen, Chia Yu Chang, Tsen-Yung Wang / Communications and Mobile Computing, International Conference on 01/2009; 3:137-141. DOI: 10.119/cmc.2009.134 retrieved from
New Opportunities for Computer Vision-Based Assistive Technology Systems for the Visually Impaired
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Wayfinding System Audit / Disability Services Queensland, Queensland Government retrieved from
McKinlay Accessibility (2014). Micro-location for Accessibility
Making micro-location a useful tool for accessibility / retrieved from

Relationship to Web and W3C activities