Interesting Electronic Mobility Systems

Like Saturdays, I don’t typically post here on Sundays either.  I like to take the weekend off, let new ideas gel and start the week anew on Mondays.  Yesterday, though, a friend sent me two articles about how different mobility systems get used by people with vision impairments.  The first was a comparison between BrailleNote GPS and Trekker from Humanware and StreetTalk from Freedom Scientific.  This review appeared in the February 2006 issue of the Braille Monitor from NFB.  The Braille Monitor article covers only the solutions that were demonstrated at the NFB conference last July.  In the following seven months, another talking GPS system, based upon Wayfinder, that, when used with Talx or Mobile Speak on a Symbian Series 60 cell phone or with Mobile Speak Pocket on a PDA/Phone like the HP 6515 which comes with the GPS receiver builtin, provides an excellent solution for considerably less expense than those from the AT vendors.  The Wayfinder solution, which I use on my HP 6515, is my favorite and I think it is certainly worth checking out.  Wayfinder provides a free five day demo on their web site, the installer works nicely with JAWS so, if you already have a phone running Talx or MS or you have a PDA/Phone with MSP, I suggest you give it a try.

The second article, a press release really, describes a system that sounds someone like Talking Signs but, just to keep things confusing, is also called “Wayfinder.”  Nonetheless, it sounds like our friends in the UK are doing some pretty nifty things with technology in open spaces.

The following article comes to us from Birmingham, England:

Birmingham City Council, UK
Saturday, February 11, 2006

Wayfinder system in Birmingham City Centre for Blind & Partially-Sighted

By Press Release

Summary A new facility to help blind and visually impaired people navigate
their way around the heart of Birmingham city centre will be launched in
Spring 2006. The 60 Wayfinder units will be installed around the city
centre, providing users with practical audible information, to confirm their
location and assist them to reach their destination safely.  

Most units are being installed on existing street furniture to minimise
street clutter and, where no street furniture exists, being fixed into new
purpose built stainless steel posts located at the back of footways. Users
will carry a trigger card to activate the speaker unit when within range.
These triggers will be made available in Birmingham’s principal languages.
Details on how and where to obtain the triggers will be available shortly.

The total cost of the Wayfinder scheme is #165,000, #65,000 of which was
recently agreed by Councillor Len Gregory, Cabinet Member for Transportation
& Street Services. Cllr Gregory said; “This is an excellent system,
assisting blind and partially sighted people find their way around
Birmingham city centre. It will help people more easily find transport in
the city, their places of work, shopping venues, public services and visitor
attractions, making Birmingham an even more accessible city”.

The city council has worked in partnership with many other agencies on this
project, including The Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB),
Birmingham Focus on Blindness, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Queen Alexandra
College, National Federation for the Blind, BBC Birmingham and others. Many
of these organisations have been represented by people with a visual

Rob Legge, Chief Executive, Birmingham Focus on Blindness, said; “Sight loss
is a frightening and traumatic experience that affects almost every aspect
of a person’s life! Our aim is to help the 30,000 children and adults in
Birmingham who have sight loss to achieve a better quality of life.
Wayfinder goes a long way to achieving this. For people with sight
impairment, travelling around the city independently is a major problem, so
Birmingham Focus is delighted to be working with Birmingham City Council and
others on the Wayfinder project.”

Following the launch, the City Council will be encouraging users to give
their views on Wayfinder to enable the system to be fully adapted to their

Reference Number 8375
Press contact Kathy Williams 0121 303 3764
Issue Date 10 February 2006

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I'm an accessibility advocate working on issues involving technology and people with print impairment. I'm a stoner, crackpot, hacker and all around decent fellow. I blog at this site and occasionally contribute to Skepchick. I'm a skeptic, atheist, humanist and all around left wing sort. You can follow this blog in your favorite RSS reader, and you can also view my Twitter profile (@gonz_blinko) and follow me there.

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