In spring 2020, I collaborated with several NYU colleagues to explore the orientation and way-finding needs of blind or low-vision visitors to NYU’s new 370 Jay Street building. Despite the limitations introduced by the COVID-19 outbreak, my colleagues and I spent significant time researching common challenges for people who are blind/low-vision and navigating new or unfamiliar spaces. Our research and design process included:
- reviewing product and published user reviews of existing navigational tools
- reviewing academic research on orientation and navigation while blind
- interviewing an NYU professor to learn about his experience navigating our site, 370 Jay Street, as a blind person
- writing and iterating on instructional copy, using feedback from our stakeholder
We found that an important first step in navigation is the initial orientation, which can be aided by providing information about the environment or building in which the user is navigating. This context can help prepare the user for the journey ahead. For visitors to 370 Jay Street, orientation or contextual information does not exist in any form, and as a result, visitors have very little confidence navigating the building themselves.
To address this problem, we created verbal descriptions of key locations in 370 Jay Street, paying particular attention to how a blind or low-vision user may interact with the space as they navigate to their final destination. In addition to screenreader-accessible text, we also provided audio recordings as an additional option.
These tools currently live on a fully accessible WordPress site as a prototype.