Lending (in)sight to the blind

Interactive technology

Expanding the way the blind experience and interact in their surroundings

A heart warming app, by the name of Be my Eyes, has been developed by Hans Jørgen Wiberg of Copenhagen. Being visually impaired himself, he first presented the idea at a Startup event in Denmark in April 2012.

Be My Eyes allows the visually impaired to obtain assistance from sighted users who download the app. These participants are notified when a blind person is in need of visual aid and a live video connection is established. With volunteers answering questions regarding the challenges of everyday life, they can essentially provide philanthropy from their iPhones. What makes the app so great is how simple it is, which makes motivates participation. This transaction within the online community leaves both sides feeling a bit happier. Download the iPhone app now!

Another answer manage daily tasks is through maps, like finding how to use transportation. Maps are functional only when they are viewed.  Simple aids for orientation that help us get to where we need to go cannot be used by then visually impaired. Thats when Dr. Joshua Miele, a scientist at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco, partnered with LightHouse, a local organisation for the blind, to recreate maps of the public transport system (BART) of the San Francisco Bay Area.  However, these maps are different from the traditional BART maps; made from an embossing printer, these large-print maps are understood through touch audio. With a Livescribe pen, one can  click on stations to get more information on ticket fare and surroundings streets of the station. This previous information that was conveyed through visuals, now makes travel planning, including navigating the station entrance to the platform and out to the destination,  much easier for the blind.

Dr Miele, becoming blind at the age of 4, understands the need for geographical information to be presented to the visually impaired. It is assumed the blind do not have spatial cognition but with orientation and mobility skills, it is something that comes along with it. That is where good design comes in with making tactile maps that are not cluttered with too much information and on an understandable scale. that is why the maps were not limited to the large font size of Braile and instead incorporated the audio element to the maps.

In addition to the accessibility map of the BART station, Architecture for the Blind, started by Chris Downey, an architect planner who lost his sight in 2008, is also on board with the redesign of transport stations to improve the user experience for the blind as they move within the spaces. Downey, with is graphic training is able to read such tactile maps that take a lot to transfer the understanding of touch to interpreting it spatially. one starts from each small detail and builds their understanding little by little to get the whole picture. His critic of architecture is how the emphasis commonly lies with how things look, rather than how its felt, such as the hand rail shape and floor material texture to differentiate spaces. With GPS programs, such as Blind Square also expanding movement, the future is could be a better place for the blind.

Architecture you can feel

 

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