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Optom Vis Sci. 2004 Nov;81(11):844-52.

Simulated impairment of contrast sensitivity: performance and gaze behavior during locomotion through a built environment.

Author information

School of Psychology, University of Ulster, Jordanstown, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom.

Erratum in

  • Optom Vis Sci. 2005 Mar;82(3):221.



An experimental study investigated the effects of simulated impairment of contrast sensitivity (CS) on performance and eye gaze patterns during locomotion through a library.


Normally sighted participants with simulated CS impairment (diffusive blur) walked two routes, one entailing limited change in direction (simple) and the other entailing several changes in direction (complex), while eye movements relative to the scene were recorded. Performance variables included walking speed in completing the route, pauses during travel, and collisions with objects on the route. For eye movements, dwell time and saccades were determined for each of three object classes: (1) objects on the route below eye level; (2) objects on the route extending above eye level; and (3) elsewhere-objects not on the route.


Walking speed was significantly affected by CS level and by route; pauses and collisions were rare. Dwell times and saccades suggested limited attention directed to low-level objects, except for CS impairment on the complex route. In the complex route, saccades and dwell times in the object class "elsewhere" were also reduced.


The results for the simple route suggest ballistic strategies: the participant appraises the scene and follows a more or less predetermined path. For the complex route, CS impairment appears to adversely affect information processing and locomotion. The results have implications for the design of built environments, especially with regard to the safety of visually impaired occupants during emergency scenarios.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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