Improving the Famous White Cane: Providing New Opportunities for Blind and Low-Vision People to Navigate Public Indoor Spaces

The Team

Alex Karulin, task-oriented research and design

Grace Callahan, UI design and research usability of the design

Maxwell Campbell, hardware and UI design

Noah Ponto, User research and gathering design feedback

Problem Overview


Paper Prototype, Testing Process, and Results

From our usability testing, we had several key takeaways and refinements to our paper prototype that eventually made it into the final version. We had several users suggest we improve the flow of searching for items by adding the ability to browse by categories like recent items or by aisle. However, to focus on usability with screen readers, we also minimized excess information on the screen, instead opting to have each category expand into a full list.

Digital Mockup

Task #1:

The first task is for a user to find navigation directions to a specific item using our app. The design we created supports this task by first allowing the user to choose a store (1), then view options for exploring the store’s items (2), then search for the desired item (3), and finally get to the item page (4), which includes a large “Navigate” button.

At any point, the user can click on “Shopping List” in the bottom right-hand corner to reach a screen that also has a “Navigate” button, which will direct the user along the shortest route between all desired items. We decided to redundantly incorporate the ability to “Navigate” from several different screens, to strive for Nielson’s flexibility and efficiency of use design heuristic so the user can choose to navigate to a specific item, or only begin the directions once they have added all desired items to the shopping list.

Task #2:

The second task we focus on is for the user to use a combination of the app and their white cane to effectively follow navigation directions to arrive at their destination. We do this by incorporating the smartphone’s visual and auditory instructions with vibrational feedback from the white cane. We made sure to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines’ AAA standard for contrast so low-vision users will be able to easily distinguish different buttons and directions in our app. Our digital mockup demonstrates a user accomplishing task #2 with phone notifications from Smart Cane, as shown below:

A key focus for us when designing for this task was adhering to Nielson’s minimalist design heuristic, as our user research indicated for us to not get carried away with complex vibration encodings or convoluted navigational directions.




Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
CSE 440 Staff

University of Washington Computer Science, Intro to Human Computer Interaction