PURPOSE. Spatial updating is the ability to keep track of position and orientation while moving through an environment. We asked how normally sighted and visually impaired subjects compare in spatial updating and in estimating room dimensions. METHODS. Groups of 32 normally sighted, 16 low-vision, and 16 blind subjects estimated the dimensions of six rectangular rooms. Updating was assessed by guiding the subjects along three-segment paths in the rooms. At the end of each path, they estimated the distance and direction to the starting location, and to a designated target. Spatial updating was tested in five conditions ranging from free viewing to full auditory and visual deprivation. RESULTS. The normally sighted and low-vision groups did not differ in their accuracy for judging room dimensions. Correlations between estimated size and physical size were high. Accuracy of low-vision performance was not correlated with acuity, contrast sensitivity, or field status. Accuracy was lower for the blind subjects. The three groups were very similar in spatial-updating performance, and exhibited only weak dependence on the nature of the viewing conditions. CONCLUSIONS. People with a wide range of low-vision conditions are able to judge room dimensions as accurately as people with normal vision. Blind subjects have difficulty in judging the dimensions of quiet rooms, but some information is available from echolocation. Vision status has little impact on performance in simple spatial updating; proprioceptive and vestibular cues are sufficient.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
National Institutes of Health Grant EY017835
- Low vision
- Spatial navigation