Through a scientific approach,we are examining critical problems and seeking to understand how fundamental cognitive and perceptual processes can help create more effective solutions.
How do we see critical information?
Preparedness and response to disasters can benefit from the development and application of easily identified and understood signage and symbology. Signage plays an important role in indicating hazards,wayfinding guidance,and safety zones,and can guide people at risk to take action that is crucial to survival. In spite of efforts at international standardization,there exists a mixed,inconsistent set of symbology and signage for risk communication and indication of evacuation routes and wayfinding information. Cultural and linguistic differences may in fact argue that standardization based upon a “one size fits all” model is not appropriate. Environments at greatest risk for significant disaster are typically also those with large, diverse populations. People at particular risk include aging populations,children,and persons with disabilities,as well as transient members of a community,such as refugees,migrant workers,recent immigrants,and tourists. For such populations,disaster preparedness information must be effective and intuitive, requiring little training.
Research to better understand salient features of effective symbology,which can be equally well rendered in physical form as well as on electronic displays,is necessary. Research was undertaken to create a portable system (shown in the image to the right) for studying visual perception of warning signage (Sullivan,2006), and has further been developed into a Web-based system. Data collection is currently underway in several countries and will be expanded to include populations with various disabilities.
Improving participation,accessibility and compliance for campus wide mobile emergency alerting systems
Campus emergency notification systems are coming into widespread use on college and university campuses. The systems in place today are not without problems,ranging from low participation rates to limitations in accessibility for students (and faculty/staff) who may have disabilities. Approaches to improve participation rates range from mandatory registration to use of social networking sites to raise awareness of the system and how to participate in it. Accessibility is technically more challenging,as it is impacted by the underlying capabilities of the emergency notification system and the delivery devices. Specific approaches to the improving accessibility include enhancement of the emergency notification message format and creation of mobile device applications that can tailor the presentation to the requirements of the device user.
Can Everyday Products Facilitate Preparedness Training?
Multimedia,by its very definition,can include multiple,parallel modalities of information. The use of multiple modalities are known to facilitate learning and may be beneficial in the disaster preparedness training context. Presentation of sequential prompts and instructions can be particularly useful for individuals with cognitive impairments and small,low cost media players show promise in providing an easy to use technology. We have previously prototyped wayfinding scenarios on the Sony® Playstation Portable® and have explored the use of inexpensive keychain digital photo-viewers to present slideshows of instructional materials (Sullivan,2006). This work is ongoing and looking at a convergence between photo-sharing, slideshows,podcasting,and structured multimedia to allow easy creation of preparedness training materials for people with cognitive impairments and illiterate populations.