Understanding how a blind or partially sighted runner runs around a 400m running track to improve independent running
thesisposted on 16.08.2021, 07:55 by Victor Jeganathan
Guide running is an activity where a blind or partially sighted (BPS) runner is assisted by a sighted guide who helps them move through an environment safely and efficiently at speed. This complex act has very little published research or supporting information on it and yet people are developing tools to aid the BPS community to run independently. This thesis aims to develop the foundation knowledge of guide running and the specifications for independent running on a 400m running track.
A series of studies were conducted to investigate the complexities of guide running and to evaluate whether any specific methods could be devised to support a BPS person to run independently. The first study involved interviews with various stakeholders in guide running and utilised thematic coding to understand the challenges that BPS runners face. The findings showed the additional roles the guides take on including coaching, motivation, and tactical choices. It also revealed barriers into the sport such as the need to find multiple guides and the importance of being able to navigate networks and develop contacts.
The second study observed guide running pairs around a 400m running track to understand how physical and verbal feedback work together to create the guide running experience. Pairs were recorded running five unique laps altering factors such as hand preference, verbal cues, and tactile cues. Each run was analysed using the following tools: A modified NASA TLX to understand mental workload and safety perceptions; TRACEr lite RETRO to understand errors during guidance; and examining audio transcripts with motion capture data. The findings revealed the value of communication, how reassurance acts as a key tool within guide running and helped define the roles audio and tactile feedback have within it. Notably, guidance with only verbal cues was an enjoyable experience despite preconceptions of the difficulty of the task, especially for those who lost their sight later in life. It was uncertain if the verbal only guidance was successful because the runner could also hear the footsteps of their guide as they ran alongside them.
The third and final study gradually removed the guide’s input over a series of laps, replacing it with verbal guidance received from a researcher cycling behind them. It was found that verbal guidance was possible without the physical presence of the guide for the majority of people. Some encountered a learning curve that seemed to be linked to the runner’s interpretation of the instructions given and their personal spatial imagery of the environment. This study also interviewed the runners and guides to get their opinions on independent running tools and the types of research that would benefit guide running.
The findings of all three studies are drawn together as part of a discussion to build a holistic image of guide running, examining the psychology and mechanics. It also presents a model explaining how guide running can be done around a 400m running track and delivers the first specifications for technology to guide someone independently around a track.
AH/L503770/1 Design Star CDT (UKRI/AHRC)
- Design and Creative Arts