Wascana Park in Regina mapped in navigation app for people with vision impairment

Ashley Nemeth uses the BlindSquare Event app to navigate Regina's Wascana Park independently. Daniella Ponticelli / Global News

People who are blind or partially sighted can now use an app to navigate Regina’s Wascana Park independently.

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) in Regina set up more than 230 GPS points in the BlindSquare Event app.

The points highlight entrances, exits, landmarks, stairs, seating areas, and buildings, along with crucial information about the main pathway itself.

READ MORE: Canadian National Institute for the Blind makes Regina more accessible with app

“Veering to the right or to the left when you’re blind or partially sighted is the difference between getting to Point B, or getting very, very lost,” said Ashley Nemeth, CNIB Program Lead, Community Engagement and Advocacy.

The app speaks to the user as they walk, describing the area in detail.

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“As we were testing it, I found out where Wascana Pool was, that there was a park over there and benches and different things. I had no idea any of that stuff was there,” Nemeth said.

“Being able to have access to places like Wascana Park or more information when I go into a business, it feels like I’m part of the community. It’s not a second thought, I’m included just like everyone else.”

A map of the main path in Wascana Park, which now has navigation assistance through the BlindSquare Event app. Canadian National Institute for the Blind / Submitted

Wascana Park is the latest addition to CNIB Saskatchewan’s accessibility project, the largest of its kind in North America, which started with BlindSquare navigation of Victoria Park and eventually Central Park.

READ MORE: People with visual impairments struggling to access essentials during coronavirus restrictions

“If we can make [Wascana] park more accessible for even one person that can navigate it independently, to me that’s a success,” said Christall Beaudry, CNIB Saskatchewan executive director.
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Just like the downtown initiative, CNIB also approached businesses in and around the park to install small, physical beacons.

The low-energy Bluetooth devices are programmed with information about the business and the building, like where the doorways, table and bathrooms are positioned and hours of operation.

READ MORE: Wascana Lake loop turned into one-way path due to coronavirus pandemic

“This is great for people like me who are blind or partially sighted, but it’s also great for the community as a whole because you’ve now tapped into an audience you might not have had before,” Nemeth said.

The Lobby Restaurant and Bar, Naked Bean, the Wascana Centre offices and legislative building all have beacons.

With help from an anonymous donor, CNIB was able to cover the cost of the beacons for the first year.

READ MORE: CNIB says COVID-19 measures don’t account for sighted guides

After that, businesses pay an annual fee of $100 per beacon to continue the service. CNIB noted it will continue to reach out to more businesses about installing beacons.

People can access the navigation tools for free on the Blindsquare Event app, and selecting CNIB Regina.

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The organization has a five-kilometre radius around its building that allows CNIB to provide the app for free to clients for that area.

BlindSquare Event is currently only available for iPhones, and is being developed for other smartphones.

Click to play video: 'People with visual impairments struggle to access essentials amid COVID-19 restrictions'
People with visual impairments struggle to access essentials amid COVID-19 restrictions

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