People who are blind or vision impaired will no longer need to juggle two location apps to navigate their way around the city, thanks to the launch of the Guide Dogs NSW/ACT GPS app.
The app, for iPhone and iPad, combines maps and important information such as the announcement of cross streets and points of interest to provide users a tool to allow them to easily get to where they need to go.
In the past, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has provided feedback to developers on apps, but this is the first one that has been funded by the organisation. The release was made possible through the engagement of Sendero Group, the leaders in accessible GPS apps in the United States, who Guide Dogs worked with to develop the new technology for Australia.
One of the most common programs run by Guide Dogs is showing people how to safely and independently move through different environments, using a range of mobility aids and electronic devices, including GPS training.
“The Guide Dogs app is the only accessible GPS app that offers location information and route navigation for someone who is blind or vision impaired in Australia,” said Nicole Holmes, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Access and Technology Officer.
“For the past four years we have trained clients to use two apps to know where they are and get guidance to a destination,” she said. “Switching between the two is just impractical and that is why Guide Dogs partnered with Sendero to develop the new app.”
Ms Holmes, who has a vision impairment and has been working on the app, said some of the features include the ability to save meaningful locations such as bus stops or building entrances, and then get directions to the saved locations when you need to revisit them.
“The other primary use for our app is that it lets you know where you are, and announces cross streets and businesses as you pass them. For someone who is blind or vision impaired this is a way of knowing what is around them as they travel.”
Features of the Guide Dogs NSW/ACT app:
- At intersections, the cross street and its orientation are announced.
- Intersections are described with the clock face orientation of streets.
- The ability to save locations and mark places or landmarks that are meaningful such as bus stops, building entrances and home address.
- Point of interest data is provided by Foursquare and google.
- Directions are configured for pedestrian and vehicle routes, including heads-up announcements for approaching turns.
- If the user wanders off route, it will automatically recalculate and updated turn information is announced.
- A Look Around Wand allows the user to point the phone in a given direction to hear what is nearby.
- Points of interest and intersections are automatically announced.
- Every day 28 Australians are diagnosed with uncorrectable vision loss, including nine who become blind. Last year, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Orientation and Mobility Instructors completed 5,295 programs for clients for free.
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