An analysis of the use of sounds for cognitive enhancement of topographic maps for people with visual impairment
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This research evaluates the implementation of two sound variables, pitch and duration, with regard to their effect on the interpretation of spatial features and contour lines on topographic maps. The study aims to provide an initial investigation into the use of multimodal (e.g., haptic and auditory) representation for exploring topographic data. The objectives of this research are to design and develop a user-friendly interface in which topographic maps can be examined in a more efficient manner than traditional maps allow, and to investigate the application of sound variables to enhance the interpretability of topographic maps. The sonically enhanced maps are designed as a prototype to explore the possibilities for communicating geographic information in a “touch-audio” manner. The creation of tactile user interfaces and audio cues are applied to convey spatial information for people with sight and those with visual impairment or blindness. The findings from this research reveal that an integration of sound variables with topographic data provides a multi-sensory approach to access information, thus allowing the people with visual impairment to explore and correctly answer, question pertaining to topographic maps (e.g., relative elevation, profile, and landform). These findings support the difference theory and indicate that persons with visual impairment and blindness are able to acquire and develop their spatial representations with alternative coding and designing strategies. They are able to learn and develop spatial knowledge equivalent to that of people who are sighted if they are provided with subsequent experience, such s training as to how the environment is represented on topographic maps.