How an app got me there!
The following story is from Jesse Wienholts, an Envision user, who is studying computer science in The Hague and recently became a daily commuter due to his internship.
Last September I started my internship in Utrecht, a city in the center of The Netherlands. In order to get home from Utrecht every afternoon, I take the train from the city straight to my hometown in Zoetermeer. The main train station in Utrecht is one of the largest train stations in the Netherlands which, for blind people like me, can be challenging to navigate. This challenge only compounds during rush hour.
This one afternoon, this challenge became a serious issue. Like many blind people, I am usually fine navigating through familiar routes with my cane. That afternoon, however, the train schedules unexpectedly changed last minute, forcing to get to a platform I have never been to before. Feeling quite uncomfortable I switched to my survival mode and reached for my phone.
There are several apps that help me in situations like these. I first fired up the NS travel app to find the right platform I need to be in. This app would not tell me how to get to that specific platform though. I briefly considered asking for help from people around me. However, from my experience, I knew that will only make things more complicated and I might end up on the wrong platform.
The GPS apps are no help as well as signal just get lost and there isn’t a reliable indoor navigation system yet. This was when I decided to give Envision a shot as my last hope. That was when I was impressed by what the app did for me.
Envision app has a function called “Instant Text” that allows users to read pieces of text instantly from a live video feed. With this feature, I was able to read the navigation signs with the Platform numbers as I passed them. I just held my phone camera up and kept walking while the app read every word that the signs were showing me.
This allowed me to understand where I was and which stairs to take. The text that the app captured wasn't always accurate and complete, but more than sufficient to understand where I was. As a plus, I even got to learn what products were on sale at the food stands on my way to the platform! Win-win!
All jokes aside, Envision really saved me that day. I got the right platform and caught the right train on time. Didn’t need to ask for help from strangers. Didn’t need to bother anyone with a FaceTime call. I managed to navigate that complex area independently. Here’s a screen recording I took of how I did it the following day:
Since then, I don’t hesitate bringing out Envision whenever I find myself in a similar situation. It’s amazing how reliable such technology has become and I am excited for how it will develop in the future. When this technology comes to a good looking smartglasses, I will know the future has arrived. Until then I will keep bringing out this tool in my pocket and navigate the world on my own terms.