According to a new report from CBC News, the University of Guelph will be installing a new wayfinding system that will help students who are visually impaired or blind.
BlindSquare is the World’s Most Popular accessible GPS app developed for the blind and visually impaired. It describes the environment, announces points of interest and street intersections as you travel. In conjunction with free, third-party navigation apps it is a powerful solution providing most of the information blind and visually impaired people need to travel independently.
A few years ago, the university wanted to make the campus more accessible for all students. In a statement, manager of architectural design for the University of Guelph Jill Vigers said:
“We really felt like there was, kind of, a missing piece there if we wanted to truly make it accessible and inclusive. We’re aware of and incorporate in all our signs things such as braille, contrast of text to background, height of text, height of information being displayed, surfaces around signs, are they approachable? Those are all good practice pieces, but we just felt it didn’t go far enough.”
BlindSquare works by placing beacons around campus buildings, with GPS markers around the buildings and QR codes on doors. The beacons are able to communicate with the phone that tells students where they are on campus, while scanning the QR codes gives a person even more information about the building or room they are going into.
The University of Guelph will be the first in Canada to support BlindSquare. The support for this app will be a great move for the campus, with users like 71-year-old Jim Sanders already using the app to navigate the neighbourhood. Sanders said:
“It’s really the most used accessible GPS system designed for blind people. I always keep the screen off because it saves battery. I don’t need a screen.”
The app tells him where it currently is, what direction he is facing, and how far away is his from the next road. If he turns in another direction the phone will vibrate and notify him about it. All notifications are delivered by voice via headphones that are connected to the phone.
The University of Guelph says that they plan to have BlindSquare available across the entire campus within the next five years.