In the development of a system offering individual guidance to visually handicapped people, evaluation tests have been performed in single-station compounds at several locations including Wakamatsu-Kawada station, which is operated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation. Putting this system to practical use requires two tasks, such as (1) verification of its usefulness in seamless operation from a starting station to a destination station, including transit by train and transfer between railways operated by different companies at large-scale junctions, and (2) investigation of completely independent utilization by individual visually handicapped people. To introduce the system onto large railway network, it can download dynamically map data (Fig. 1). And verification tests were implemented to collect data and evaluate the system in Kobe area (Sannomiya and Shin-Kobe stations) as well as in Tokyo area (Shimbashi, Honjo-Azumabashi and Wakamatsu-Kawada stations) (Fig. 2).
These tests demonstrated a number of points. In regard to the task (1), all test subjects were able to move from a point outside the ticket barrier of the starting station to a point outside the ticket barrier of the destination station in using trains with the system. In regard to the task (2), for users with unimpaired walking ability, the degree of their experience in using the system did not affect the level of mental relaxation and vigilance to the surroundings in walking. Users were also able to correct their actions appropriately based on previous information when new guidance information was not provided. Although a walking training along the platform was required for those with few of experience in using trains alone, they were able to acquire a skill of using the system after several exercises. Even for the same user, different functions and guidance contents were required in different situations. This clarifies the importance of guidance function of the system that can appropriately satisfy demands of user. The above findings suggest that the system can be used independently by individual users as an effective support tool if walking ability and other user-related conditions meet the requirements of the system.