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GPS Navigation Device Features and AT for People with Upper Body and Cognitive Impairments

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Introduction

GPS (Global Positioning System) navigation devices are used in a variety of settings such as in the user’s car, outdoors on a hiking trail, on a boat (e.g., fishfinders that allow the user to save waypoints), and in the air on an airplane. Additionally, there are GPS devices that are used for navigation by pedestrians. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on GPS navigation devices that are designed for use in vehicles and the features that consumers with upper body impairments and cognitive impairments should look for when purchasing a GPS navigation device.


Consumers with Upper Body Impairments

Individuals with upper body impairments may have poor fine motor control and experience difficulty reaching for and lifting objects. Therefore, when using a GPS navigation device, these individuals may experience difficulty selecting and activating controls, reaching for and grasping the device, and holding the device. Consumers with upper body impairments shopping for a GPS navigation system should take the following factors into consideration.

  1. Does the device accept speech input? Is it capable of speech recognition?
  2. If the device does not accept speech input, is there a way to save frequently used locations and recall those locations with only a few button presses?
  3. If the device has a touchscreen, are the icons and their associated activation areas sufficiently large?
  4. If the device has hardware controls, are the buttons sufficiently large? Are the buttons spaced far enough apart to avoid accidentally activating multiple buttons?
  5. Can the device be mounted on the vehicle’s dashboard, for example? If so, is the screen large enough to be easily seen by the driver?


Consumers with Cognitive Impairments

Individuals with cognitive impairments may have problems with attention, memory, and organization, or have difficulty reading (e.g., dyslexia). Therefore, when using a GPS navigation device, these individuals may experience difficulty understanding and remembering directions, understanding and remembering how to use the GPS device, and reading text quickly and accurately. Consumers with cognitive impairments shopping for a GPS navigation system should take the following factors into consideration.

  1. Does the device provide speech output?
  2. Does the device use short and simple phrases or sentences rather than long, winding sentences?
  3. Does the device provide both vocal and graphical directions? Directions are easier to comprehend if the speech output is paired with graphical indicators such as arrows.
  4. Does the device also provide directions for lane navigation?
  5. Will the device recalculate the best route if the driver misses a turn or takes a wrong turn?
  6. Is there a way to save frequently used locations and recall those locations with only a few button presses or speech commands?
  7. Does the device provide an overabundance of data? Users with cognitive impairments should avoid purchasing GPS navigation devices that provide a large amount of detail and long, complicated directions and instructions.
  8. Does the device’s interface make use of abbreviations? If so, are the abbreviations easy to understand and remember? Do they make sense?
  9. If icons are used, do the icons reflect the actual function of that action?
  10. Are timed responses required (i.e., must respond to a prompt within a given time limit)? If so, can the user adjust those time limits?
  11. Does the GPS device feature a localization function so users can be located when they have lost the capacity to orient themselves?


GPS Navigation Systems for Purchase

Luckily, most of the major manufacturers of GPS navigation devices produce models that contain many of the features listed above for both individuals with upper body impairments and individuals with cognitive impairments. A few of these are:

Garmin nüvi® 885 and 885T
Garmin nüvi® 885 and 885T
TomTom GO 740 LIVE
TomTom GO 740 LIVE

Many other brands and models of GPS navigation devices exist that also have the features mentioned above. It is important to do research before buying any GPS navigation device and, if possible, try the product out in the store first.


Author: Elizabeth Weldon

Universal Design @ Georgia Tech