How Assistive Technology Can Help Overcome Commuting Challenges for the Blind & Low Vision Community
Innovative technology offers simple solutions that ease some travelling hassles.
Commuting poses unique challenges for individuals who are blind or have low vision, affecting their independence and mobility. These challenges, from navigating to using public transportation, necessitate innovative solutions and thoughtful assistive technology designs.
Challenges in Daily Commuting:
For individuals who are blind or have low vision, daily commuting is filled with a myriad of challenges that go beyond simple navigation. These challenges can range from locating and safely entering buildings with inconsistent layouts to dealing with unpredictable changes in public spaces, such as construction areas that alter familiar walking routes, leading to disorientation and increased risk. Public transportation, a vital component of commuting, introduces its own set of hurdles. Ensuring the comfort of guide dogs, navigating crowded platforms, and identifying the right bus or train can be daunting tasks.
Moreover, technological barriers often present additional obstacles. Many apps, crucial for personal safety and orientation during commutes, lack accessible features, making them less usable for the blind and low vision community. This technological gap underscores the need for more inclusive design that considers the diverse needs of all commuters.
These examples illustrate just a fraction of the daily realities faced by individuals navigating the world without full vision. Each aspect of their journey requires careful planning, reliance on various skills, and often, a leap of faith in the accessibility and kindness of the environment and people around them.
Assistive Technology: A Beacon of Support
Assistive technology is at the forefront of addressing these commuting challenges. Envision Glasses, using AI-powered features, help in identifying entrances and describing surroundings, thereby aiding safe navigation. By using the Describe Scene feature, people can have a hands-free and immediate understanding of their surrounding and ask questions with the AI assistant Ask Envision.The smart glasses also read aloud text on the go, which is extra helpful when it comes to being aware of road signs or train banners.
The free Envision App is also another free accessibility tool that can perform some of these features and especially help in reading out imported or scanned text from other documents or applications.
Additional assistive devices, such as smart canes and the Biped harness, provide supplementary navigation aids, emphasizing the importance of variety in assistive technologies for personal preference and specific needs.
Bartimeus Fonds' Initiative
Highlighting the ongoing innovation in this field, Bartimeus Fonds, a Dutch non-profit, champions the Last Mile Challenge. This initiative seeks creative solutions to empower the blind and low vision community to reach their destinations independently, underscoring the critical role of continuous advancement in assistive technology.
While significant advancements have been made, the journey to fully accessible commuting for the blind and low vision community is ongoing. Assistive technologies, innovative public space designs, and communal support are keys to greater empowerment and safety.