Quality of experience: a discussion on experiential access to outdoor environments

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Virginia Tech

This study explores experiential access to outdoor environments. This qualitative thesis presents the results of open-ended interviews with four people who have severe visual impairment. The interviews gathered information about the participants leisure activities in outdoor settings.

The purpose of the study was to discover the factors in the environment that contribute to a positive recreation experience for people with visual impairment. Experiential qualities of the environment for both people who are sighted and those who are blind were compared through the analysis of eight contemporary authors' writings related to environmental understanding and the transcripts of the four interviews. The overlap of experience in outdoor environments between these two user groups was explored.

Two areas of significant influence on the participants' experience was discovered; (a) wayfinding and making sense, and (b) affective response. The specific factors in the environment that influenced the quality of experience for these participants, other than those that contribute to making sense, were found to include: (a) interaction with nature, (b) awareness of enclosure & openness of the setting, (c) intellectual and physical stimulation and challenge, and (d) direct physical interaction with the surrounding environment.

This study provides some of the specific benefits and advantages of incorporation of multi-sensory stimulation in design for people of all abilities.

landscape architecture, visual impairment, accessibility, recreation