The Necessity of Introducing Pedestrian Application for the Visually Impaired to Build a Smart City Based on Universal Design

The 2019 Universal Design International Seminar has obtained written consent from the speaker to publish the summarized and edited content

SPEAKER: Hyongsop Kim (Korea, N-Visions)

Accessibility means that disabled and non-disabled people can use all services and products equally, and it can be said that it is in line with universal design that pursues design for everyone. So, how can people with disabilities communicate externally? They are being helped by various assistive technologies. Assistive technology refers to all products, equipment, software, or systems that help individuals with disabilities to achieve their full potential. As the concept of assistive technology becomes universal, the paradigm for disability has changed. As a representative example, screen readers and electronic information terminals are assistive technologies that help visually impaired people to communicate, and include screen readers and electronic information terminals. With technological help, visually impaired people can independently perform various tasks, such as searching the Internet and writing documents.
Today, these assistive technologies are being applied in a way that provides convenient services to anyone rather than being a technology only for the disabled. For example, audiobooks, which existed in the past as a service to help visually impaired people in reading, are now becoming universal as a technology for everyone, as it has become one of the types of reading that non-disabled people can choose according to their needs.

Changing perceptions of disability
The diffusion of assistive technology is also associated with a change in the perception of people with disabilities. In the past, recognition of disability has been limited to individual impairments and medical approaches to treat those impairments. Now, however, it is recognized that anyone can be exposed to various ‘disability environments’ at least once in their lifetime, such as an unfamiliar language environment in which communication is difficult, loss of vision due to presbyopia, temporary physical disability due to injury, and temporary communication difficulties due to noise. As non-disabled people can have a temporary disability depending on the circumstances, even a person with a disability can be empowered irrespective of the condition of his/her disability as long as an environment in which he or she can maximize his/her ability is provided. Therefore, we must remember that even if we do not have a specific target in mind, anyone can use it usefully if we develop a service considering universal design.

Pedestrian accessibility in Korea for the visually impaired

sound inducer

voice inducer

One of the most important things for the visually impaired in city life is independent walking. In walking and public transportation, which are prerequisites for a free life in the city, an acoustic signal is a traffic safety facility that helps visually impaired people to cross the road safely. It supports the sound guidance function to inform the location of the traffic light and the sound and voice function to inform that the signal has changed. It can also be operated by directly pressing the button installed on the traffic light itself or by using the remote control you are carrying. There are two buttons on the remote control, which are used to find the location of the traffic light and to use the voice guide, and the other is used to turn on the sound signal of the traffic light.
In fact, this function makes it difficult to check whether the desired traffic light has been operated accurately with the remote control when two crosswalks are adjacent, such as at an intersection. In the case of voice guidance devices installed at adjacent traffic lights, there are rules such as different genders of voices, but it is often difficult for visually impaired people to properly understand the direction they should cross during two crosswalks. There is also a disadvantage that the remaining time cannot be checked if the acoustic beeper operates while the green light is on. In addition, the fact that the acoustic signal itself is not installed or does not work due to a malfunction, or the fact that it is difficult to report a malfunction in the case of an acoustic signal failure because the unique number of the crosswalk cannot be checked, can be said to be an area that needs improvement.


The subway, which is the safest and most convenient public transportation for visually impaired travellers, provides a variety of detailed and distinctive information notification services such as guide blocks that meet regulations, braille installed on exits, train arrival information announcement and various notification sounds, etc. However, in the Braille guidance installed on some screen doors, it is difficult to check the information about the train's moving direction because the train's moving direction arrow is not displayed. It is also difficult to check the exact boarding point (entrance door) due to the point-shaped guide blocks laid in a straight line on the entire floor in front of the screen door.

The necessity of introducing a pedestrian navigation system that can be used by the visually impaired
Smart city is intended to solve urban problems by combining IT technology, and we intend to explore ways to improve accessibility in such a smart city environment. Like smart cities, various facilities for the disabled can realize better technology when IT technology is combined.
Pedestrian navigation, conceived in this context, is a smartphone app that is used to find an unfamiliar road, and is a service that informs the user of the destination route through visual and voice guidance. It is an extended concept of the map app that we use every day, and visual and audio information together guide the way. Currently, there is a walking navigation system that can provide voice guidance in Korea, but it does not provide detailed route guidance for the visually impaired to use together. The route guidance for blind pedestrians should be able to confirm what buildings are around and in which direction to move through voice guidance when a destination is set.
In overseas cases, more necessary functions are provided as a separate service for the visually impaired. For example, in addition to route guidance, there is a ‘listen to nearby places information’ function, so voice guidance can be received. As the user learns the surrounding information in detail, the user can get help in understanding the place.
We would like to suggest the following on the premise of building a walking navigation system for users with visual impairments.
First of all, for the convenient use of all users, an assistive technology that allows information that can be read well by a screen reader, should be established. A function is needed to match the direction of the voice guidance to the direction of the traffic light. In addition, it is necessary to add various accessibility features to the existing map app so that accessibility features can be selected as needed, and to apply a route re-navigation function or an accurate direction guidance function before and after entering a crosswalk. If such a pedestrian navigation system is established, all citizens of the city will be able to independently navigate unfamiliar roads, and naturally, the participation rate of the visually impaired in economic and leisure activities will increase significantly.
Since universal design should be able to expect economic effects based on accessibility considerations, I think that these proposals will induce more people to participate in social activities which is also in the same context with universal design. In the future, for the application and diffusion of universal design, a lot of effort and research should be conducted to suggest more practical alternatives and directions through various collaborations with developers, including accessibility tests that consider real users.
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