Important note: This Wiki page is edited by participants of the RDWG. It does not necessarily represent consensus and it may have incorrect information or information that is not supported by other Working Group participants, WAI, or W3C. It may also have some very useful information.

Way-finding systems

From Research and Development Working Group Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Way-finding: navigation and exploration for accessibility

Way-finding, navigation and exploration of places is an everyday challenge for many people with disabilities. The groups facing the biggest problems in the area are people with mobility, vision or cognitive impairments.


Page author(s): (in alphabetical order) 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

Other contact(s): [if applicable, name of other RDWG participant(s) who have particular interest and/or expertise in this research topic]


Accessible way-finding, navigation, exploration, indoor navigation, maps, geospatial technology


As large premises are being either developed or re-developed, the development of accessible web-based way-finding systems is increasingly being discussed. The connection of these way-finding and navigational systems to the Web needs to be explored so that people with disabilities are not at a disadvantaged with the installation of new technology. The relationship of geospatial technology to web-based technology particularly as it applies to people with disabilities raises many interesting possibilities including the use of web-based maps and how people may interact with this technology. Description

Way-finding, navigation and exploration of places is an everyday challenge 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 pose great opportunities to allow integration of web-based technology with geospatial technology that is becoming so prevalent. Technology now allows hospitals to find out where a patient is current located in the hospital enabling efficient management of treatment, ensuring safety of new-born infants, and assist 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, is allowing large organisations to incorporate economical way-finding systems. There are additional questions such as how we can 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 way-finding. In addition, new geolocation technologies such as Glopos ( promise much better precision, improved reliability and seamless indoor and outdoor 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.


Navigation involves two components: locomotion and way-finding. 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 people. Way-finding "refers to the requirement of where to go and how to get there." [MS2006]

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, cellular networks, and other radio frequency technologies • Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) like GPS • inertial navigation systems using dead reckoning Many of these technologies are readily available in current mobile devices and used for a variety of applications. As far as accessibility 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 accessibility related attributes that meet their needs. Navigation applications where the user can get directions and guidance to reach a destination avoiding potential obstacles.


Some typical accessibility exploration applications available in the form of mobile or web applications are the following: • AXSMap • AbleRoad • J' accede • Wheelmap • HumanAccess • Rollout

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 their 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 boosting innovation in the area and providing better, less limited services.

Research Questions

How can way-finding systems integrate into the web-based environment? How accessible are the notifications in way-finding systems, QR codes, alerts etc. What methods are available to allow applications to maximize interoperability of geolocation technology? How can we best develop navigational algorithms based on the user needs? What is the best method to find dynamic data to provide complete solutions (e.g. binding with calendar to get notifications and guidance to get to a meeting on time). What methods are available to present information about the surroundings and navigation instructions in an accessible way with as little distraction as possible? Is it possible to seamlessly integrate indoor and outdoor way-finding?


[MS2006]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 BeaconsA 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 ImpairedTerven, J. R., Salas, J., & Raducanu, B. (2014). New Opportunities for Computer Vision-Based Assistive Technology Systems for the Visually Impaired. Computer, 47(4), 52-58. doi: 10.1109/MC.2013.265 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[edit]

• W3C Geolocation API Specification]