A new accessibility program is up and running in Regina’s downtown, thanks to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, which will make it easier for those who are visually impaired to get around.
“We’re using GPS beacons that speak to an app called BlindSquare,” CNIB Saskatchewan executive director, Christall Beaudry said.
CNIB has set up GPS points of interest and markers throughout Victoria Park and City Square Plaza, which locate pathways, say where they lead and find play areas — making it the first inner city park in the country with the technology.
For people like Ashley Nemeth who used to avoid coming downtown, the new technology has changed that,
“It really gives you the visual information of the world around you in the palm of your hand,” Nemeth said. ” I have three kids at home, so now I know where the park is and I can bring my kids to the park and enjoy downtown with my family.”
The app audibly relays information to the user and can be downloaded for free on iPhone. But it’s not just the park that’s more accessible. So far, seven companies have placed beacons in their buildings.
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“It provides basic information: where to find the cashier, where the washrooms are located, where the seating is — so someone who is blind or partially sighted can navigate on their own,” Beaudry said.
“It’s exciting technology and it’s game-changing technology for people who are blind or partially-sighted.”
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Anna Gardikiotis, family owner of The Copper Kettle and O’Hanlons, says the decision to place a beacon in the restaurant was a no-brainer.
“Typically we think of accessibility to do with mobility and this is another dimension to it,” Gardikiotis said. “It was such easy technology, it was basically peel and stick the beacon and you’re welcoming more people from the community to see downtown.”
CNIB says it provides services to around 1,600 clients in the city and wants to see the technology expand city-wide.
“We would love to make it accessible in a lot of locations throughout our city,” Beaudry said. “For example, it can be used indoors in the stadium: using beacon technology, someone could find their seat independently.
“We can use it shopping malls, we can also use it outdoors in other parks and facilities where many people use it — the general public and blind and partially-sighted.”