Vision loss knows no boundaries; it can affect anyone, of any age, income level, race, or ethnic background, at any time. Regardless of the level of visual impairment, vision loss can impact a person’s life and their ability to complete everyday tasks. One of the greatest challenges that a blind or deaf blind person faces is the ability to navigate safely and independently through the physical world. Traveling with little or no vision at all can be challenged and inaccessible, limiting the ability to work, go to school, take care of personal needs, or socialize with others.
The purpose of this paper is to describe and discuss a multidisciplinary project to design and build a low cost, light weight “Intelligent Mobility Cane” prototype that will aid deaf-blind and blind persons in navigating surroundings via real-time tactile and directional force feedback and guidance. The system is designed for providing information about a physical surrounding environment to a user. The solution developed by the team is a handle that attaches to a white cane and provides directional feedback to the user using a roller assembly. The roller assembly uses four bearings that rotate in one direction or another to indicate the direction the user should move to avoid obstacles. A vibration motor with different patterns of vibration is also embedded in the handle to warn about objects at upfront. The ultra-sonic sensors are used to convey the information of the environment to the handle itself. The finished cane physically resembles a conventional cane therefore allowing the user to still be able to sweep the cane, tap and feel the ground. To evaluate the performance and usability of the designed handle, the authors visited Association of Blind and Visual Impaired Association, where they formed a group of blind and deaf-blind evaluators. The result of the evaluations was positive and several suggestions were shared by the group to improve the cane.