Background A challenge to individuals with cognitive impairments in wayfinding is how to remain oriented, recall routines, and travel in unfamiliar areas in a way relying on limited cognitive capacity. While people without disabilities often use maps or written directions as navigation tools or for remaining oriented, this cognitively-impaired population is very sensitive to issues of abstraction (e.g. icons on maps or signage) and presents the designer with a challenge to tailor navigation information specific to each user and context. Methods: This paper describes an approach to providing distributed cognition support of travel guidance for persons with cognitive disabilities. A solution is proposed based on passive near-field RFID tags and scanning PDAs. A prototype is built and tested in field experiments with real subjects. The unique strength of the system is the ability to provide unique-to-the-user prompts that are triggered by context. The key to the approach is to spread the context awareness across the system, with the context being flagged by the RFID tags and the appropriate response being evoked by displaying the appropriate path guidance images indexed by the intersection of specific end-user and context ID embedded in RFID tags. Results: We found that passive RFIDs generally served as good context for triggering navigation prompts, although individual differences in effectiveness varied. The results of controlled experiments provided more evidence with regard to applicabilities of the proposed autonomous indoor wayfinding method. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the ability to adapt indoor wayfinding devices for appropriate timing of directions and standing orientation will be particularly important.
Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 7, 45-51