For some Library customers who have low-vision or blindness, a visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library is not as easy as simply walking in. Instead, some wait in the lobby for a person to guide them to their destination.
On average between 20 and 25 visitors a week need guides to bring them to the Center for Accessibility, which provides customers with disabilities equal access to Library resources and services.
The Library hopes new technology will change this experience. GoodMaps, a free assistive app designed to help the visually impaired navigate indoor spaces independently, now includes the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.
The GoodMaps Explore app operates similarly to outdoor GPS systems like Google Maps. However, it specializes in indoor navigation, providing turn-by-turn directions via audio or on-screen text. This simple and intuitive app can provide a list of points of interest (POIs), narrate what is nearby, and give detailed routing assistance. The GoodMaps app can guide visitors to a study room on the third floor, the event space on the fifth floor, and even to a permanent exhibit on the fourth floor where the app will describe D.C.'s incredible history. The goal is for those in the disability community to explore the entire Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, not just the Center for Accessibility. While this assistive technology primarily helps those with low vision or who are blind, anyone can use it.
As the state library for the blind and physically disabled, the Center for Accessibility offers a range of services including the DC Talking Book and Braille Program. The center also trains and educates individuals on the use of assistive technologies through classes, demo sessions, and presentations. Most patrons visiting the Center for Accessibility seek to learn how to be self-sufficient through technology.
To integrate the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library into the app, GoodMaps utilized LiDAR mapping technology, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. The map will be a living entity, maintained in constant contact with GoodMaps to provide patrons with accurate directions as exhibits and other developments happen in the building.
While data on the effectiveness of GoodMaps in the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library is not yet available, the technology is not new to public spaces. Airports like Louisville Muhammad Ali International and Portland International already employ GoodMaps. However, this marks one of the first instances of a public library using the technology.
This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America's museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. IMLS envisions a nation where individuals and communities have access to museums and libraries to learn from and be inspired by the trusted information, ideas, and stories they contain about our diverse natural and cultural heritage. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov