13 Must-Have Apps for Blind or Visually Impaired People in 2020

13 Must-Have Apps for Blind or Visually Impaired People in 2020

13 Must-Have Apps for Blind or Visually Impaired People in 2020

 

For blind or visually impaired people, accessing simple information can sometimes be difficult. How can a nonsighted person get their bearings and choose the best route to get to their destination? Or read a document that’s not available in braille? Answer an email from a co-worker? Fortunately, technology keeps innovating and permits to assist people with a visual impairment in their everyday lives.

Indeed, 89% of them have a smartphone, a tool that truly revolutionizes their lives! If they can gain more autonomy today it’s thanks to features that are more advanced and accessible to the general public or thanks to apps that are specially designed for them. Blind or visually impaired people who find it restrictive and stressing to get around can now be more serene!

Let’s explore these apps together!

VoiceOver

VoiceOver is a screen reader that’s integrated into iPhones that, as its name indicates, enunciates emails or other textual messages aloud. It’s up to the user to choose the speaking rate and the volume.

Not to forget that braille also remains an option for those who have a braille keyboard to connect to the smartphone or who just want to write in braille directly on the screen of their iPhone.

VoiceOver also describes all the elements on the screen such as apps icons, the battery level and even in part images thanks to artificial intelligence. All the information is thus accessible!

TalkBack

Android smartphones also have a similar screen reader with TalkBack. It follows the same guideline as for iPhones: reading textual elements aloud, exploring the screen, using braille with BrailleBack… Everything is set for an optimal and smooth navigation!

Siri

Directly integrated into iPhones, Siri is an easy-to-use vocal assistant. For blind or visually impaired people, for whom finding and clicking on the right button can be difficult, using a voice control enables them to save time!

They just need to ask Siri to call a contact, to send a dictated text message and everything is therefore easier!

Google Assistant

Also activated by voice control, Google Assistant has the same functionality as Siri. The user totally controls their smartphone according to their needs: sending an email, setting up an alarm, managing their schedule…

Available on both Android and iOS

Google Maps

It’s one of the most popular GPS navigation apps. Being able to anticipate their route is essential for blind and visually impaired people. And this also applies for other types of profiles in general since people with disabilities use 30% more the GPS on their smartphone than the rest of the population. (Find out all the facts and figures concerning their use of smartphones in our infographic.)

Google Maps enables users to have access to all the real-time traffic information which is ideal when choosing the right means of public transportation!

The app even provides a new feature called “Accessible Places” that enables users to even more apprehend their environment thanks to information concerning the seating plan of a restaurant, the exact location of a building entrance…

A precious help to serenely get around!

Available on both Android and iOS

Moovit

For those who are used to taking public transportation, this app lists all the possible means of transportation, their itineraries, their timetables and other information on real-time traffic.

The app even indicates the users the names of stops while on the bus, the tram or the subway. This proves to be essential for blind or visually impaired people when voice announcements aren’t activated.

Available on both Android and iOS

Microsoft Soundscape

Developed by Microsoft, this app is particularly innovative since it uses audio 3D technology to describe blind or visually impaired people their environment. 

Soundscape enables them to better apprehend their surroundings, to call out intersections and to find their bearings in the city with great facility. And all of that by having their smartphone in their pocket: their hands remain free for their white cane or their guide dog!

Available on iOS

Evelity

Developed by Okeenea Digital, this app is the first indoor wayfinding solution for people with a visual impairment to navigate in complex venues such as museums or universities! It works like a GPS.

Compatible with VoiceOver and TalkBack, Evelity provides audio instructions to users to guide them step by step. People with disabilities can easily find the reception desk or the classroom without needing to know the premises in advance.

Available on both Android and iOS

MyMoveo

We’re once again on the theme of mobility with MyMoveo developed by Okeenea Tech. This app enables blind or visually impaired users to activate connected Accessible Pedestrian Signals aBeacon to know when the pedestrian signal is green and thus safely cross the street.

Users can even use the app to activate the audio beacons NAVIGUEO+ HIFI which can locate points of interest such as the entrances of a public building or a subway station.

Available on both Android and iOS, an update is coming! 

Be My Eyes

An app with which users can ask the help of sighted users in order to match their clothes or to know the expiry date of a product. Thanks to an audio-video connexion, users can easily get in touch. 

Available on both Android and iOS

Aira

Aira works in the same way as Be My Eyes since it connects nonsighted people with sighted ones to help them in various tasks such as finding the gate of an airport.

What sets this app apart is that the sighted users, called agents, are specifically trained to assist blind or visually impaired users referred to as Explorers. 

Although the app can be downloaded for free, users are charged according to the different plans and services Aira provides. Depending on the formula they choose and their needs, the cost can thus be high.

Available on both Android and iOS

Seeing AI

A multipurpose app that permits to read and describe all types of documents placed under the smartphone camera such as banknotes or product barcodes.

Seeing AI even recognizes images, colors and faces and thus gives details on people’s emotions. 

Available on iOS

Lookout

Lookout is the equivalent app of Seeing AI on Android. The user just has to activate their smartphone camera so that Lookout can identify banknotes, objects… Thanks to its Quick Read Mode, the app skims through a text which is ideal when sorting the mail for example.

An app that simplifies the everyday tasks and saves time to its users!

Available on Android

 

We can see that blind or visually impaired people have within their reach numerous apps that improve their autonomy especially concerning their mobility.

If you want to know more about other profiles of people with disabilities and the apps they use in their everyday lives, you can read our articles:

9 Must-Have Apps for People with Physical Disabilities in 2020 

5 Must-Have Apps for Deaf or Hard of Hearing People in 2020

 

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The app Evelity is the first indoor wayfinding solution for people with a visual impairment to navigate in complex venues such as museums or universities! It works like a GPS.

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Carole Martinez

Content Manager junior

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The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

Everything You Have Always Wanted to Know on Braille Mysterious Writing

Everything You Have Always Wanted to Know on Braille Mysterious Writing

Everything You Have Always Wanted to Know on Braille Mysterious Writing

 

On elevators, medicine boxes, descriptions in museums or door signs…, you’ve probably noticed those small raised dots. You already know they’re for blind people but do you know how they work? Let us guide you through it!

Braille, the writing and reading tactile system with raised dots used by visually impaired people, exists since 1829. Its inventor, Louis Braille, a French blind man, created this tactile alphabet in order to be able to read and write, thus gaining access to education like everybody else. Braille represents an essential tool for a visually impaired person to learn and consequently be included in society. Even though braille has evolved, the 1829 system still constitutes the reading basis for blind and visually impaired people. Let’s go back in time to discover its creation and its use in today’s society!

Systems used before braille

As soon as the 17th century, it has been understood that the sense of touch for blind and visually impaired people was to be exploited to teach them how to read. The idea of touching embossed paper came from Italian Jesuit Francesco Lana de Terzi with its eponymous system in 1670. The Lana system was composed of lines and raised dots on thick paper based on a three-by-three grid containing the alphabet letters. One just needed to learn the specificities of this grid to learn this writing system.

In the following century, French man of letters Valentin Haüy made education for blind and visually impaired people really possible. He had special embossed and movable characters made so that students could touch and read what was under their fingers. This raised letters method was put into practice at the Royal Institution of Blind Children, now called the National Institute for the Young Blind, a school opened by Valentin Haüy in Paris in 1785. The Valentin Haüy Association that also emerged still continues to promote braille.

Although the two previous systems were specifically designed to meet the needs of blind and visually impaired people, 1808-1809 code by French Charles Barbier de la Serre was first created for army officers so that they could write and transmit messages in the dark. Called “night writing”, this system was based on sounds and consisted of raised dots on a grid. In 1819, Barbier perfected it to present it at the Royal Institution of Blind Children.

Louis Braille, at the time a student of the school, perceived the system potential but also its limits since it didn’t take into account the words spelling but only their pronunciation. He decided to improve Barbier system himself seeing that Barbier didn’t agree with his suggestions. He then created a code still used today and lent it his name: braille.

What is braille?

Louis Braille kept the basic principles of Barbier system, that is to say the encoding and the raised dots, but reviewed two elements:

The number of dots went from 12 to 6.

⊗ He opted for the coding of Latin typographic signs (letters, punctuation, musical notes).

Where a non-visually impaired person sees an indecipherable, crypted and almost extra-terrestrial language, a visually impaired person perceives a distinct language, a code they decipher and master to read and to learn. We tend to forget it but braille is indeed a code! Continuing with an encoding enables to keep a system that’s easy to learn: each character is set in a cell composed of raised dots. In a cell, the six dots are divided into two columns. The numbering of dots allows to know their position. Thus, each character has a very precise combination.

Braille is a universal language since it’s used by other Latin languages for basic letters but there are still elements that can differ according to the languages such as accented letters, symbols and punctuation signs.

Despite being a code, it still needs to render the meaning of the language used: consequently the meaning of the symbols isn’t the same according to the language. That is why Japanese, Korean and Cyrillic brailles have different particularities that set them aside from French braille.  

Code developments

Gradually, the code has evolved and impacted other areas such as mathematics and music thus enabling blind and visually impaired people to develop skills and/or hobbies. Nevertheless, there are limits to mathematics braille. Mathematics formulas can indeed be very long once transcribed into braille and therefore complex to comprehend.

Seeing that the standard braille and its 6 dots only permits having 64 combinations, some characters such as numbers or capital letters have to be coded onto 2 characters. When braille moved to IT, the braille cell thus gained 2 dots. Thanks to this IT braille encoded on 8 dots, 256 combinations are then possible, which enables to transcribe all the new symbols of the digital era such as the at symbol into just one character.

A system that looks to the future

Today, visually impaired people can easily be connected to the Web and thus to the entire world same as any Internet user. Technology has evolved and serves them. It’s not just smartphones that enable them to gain a real autonomy. Thanks to the advanced progress, blind and visually impaired people can:

⊗ Read any document on the net thanks to a braille transcription software. The text is automatically transcribed into braille and can even be printed in braille thanks to a special printer called braille embosser.

⊗ Access scanned braille documents thanks to the National Library Service (NLS) and other digital libraries. 

Use a refreshable braille display (or braille terminal) on which a braille keyboard is embedded. The dots can raise or lower depending on the characters. The onscreen text can directly be translated unto the refreshable braille display.

Set up a speech synthesizer that reads aloud the onscreen text.

 ⊗ Use a screen reader software that transforms the onscreen text into a braille page or into a read aloud text.

Looking into the history of braille and its evolution, it’s easy to realize that Louis Braille has truly changed millions of people lives giving them access to an education, a fundamental right. He literally gave them the keys, well the code, so that they can live in a more inclusive world with real autonomy. His code enables blind and visually impaired people to read, write and learn just like any citizen and is used today to comply with the demands of the digital world. From 1829 to 2020, just a few clicks are enough…

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Braille represents an essential tool for a visually impaired person to learn and consequently be included in society. Even though braille has evolved, the 1829 system still constitutes the reading basis for blind and visually impaired people.

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Carole Martinez

Digital Content Manager Junior

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The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

Brisbane: A City for Everyone

Brisbane: A City for Everyone

Brisbane: a City for Everyone

 

Currently in Australia, it has been estimated that approximately 357,000 people are either blind or experience some form of vision impairment. This number has been projected to increase to 564,000 by 2030. 

Moreover 8% of pedestrians with vision impairment living in Australia have reported being involved in a collision with a vehicle or a bicycle in the last five years. 20% have reported being involved in a near collision in the same period.

Taking into consideration these statistics, how can the City of Brisbane improve street navigation of people living with some form of visual limitation? What concrete solutions have been implemented so far and will be in the future to ensure everyone has equal opportunity to enjoy the city?

 

Proven solutions to favor accessibility of blind pedestrians in Brisbane

 

Brisbane City Council controls more than 6800 kilometres of roads, which include 50,000 intersections and more than 850 sets of traffic lights. No wonder why it can be a nightmare navigating the City when you have visual impairment. 

Statistically, hazards occur more at junctions than anywhere else. It is then the responsibility of local council to take action in order to ensure safety to everyone.

“Council has been undertaking positive education with the public about the importance of independent mobility of pedestrians with vision impairment so that residents and businesses can help be part of a solution that strikes a fair balance between the needs of pedestrians.”

Adrian Schrinner, Lord Mayor of Brisbane since 2019

 

Brisbane Access and Inclusion Plan 2012-2017 

 

Between 2012 and 2017, the Council has invested $200 million in implementing the Brisbane Access and Inclusion Plan dedicating part of its effort on Pedestrian mobility and transport. Of the overall amount, approximately $6.8 million were fully dedicated each year to make the city more accessible for all its citizens.

After this five-year plan in 2017, 80% of residents agreed that Brisbane was a more inclusive and accessible city (up from 61% in previous years).

This accessibility plan includes but is not limited to initiatives to help blind and low vision pedestrians cross the street independently such as:

⊗ Audio-tactile signals or audible tactile traffic signals (ATTS) at signalised junctions to communicate information about the green and red intervals in non-visual format.

Local representatives have publicly stated that “Special facilities including audible and tactile features now exist at most traffic light pedestrian crossings” although no official statistics are available at the time being.

However Lord Mayor of Brisbane Adrian Schrinner has declared that “In Brisbane we consider ourselves to be highly accessible, which is why we previously voluntarily installed audio tactile facilities at all signalised intersections within the Brisbane CBD and over 500 intersections across Brisbane.”

Brisbane’s audible traffic signals (ATTS) have the particularity to automatically respond to background noise and thus operate on lower volumes in the late evening and early morning.

More info on local audible tactile traffic signals (ATTS) guidelines.

 

⊗ Extended walking times at designated signalised pedestrian crossings to allow people with slow walk to cross the street safely and in their own pace. Extended walk times are currently provided in locations where there is high use from specific user groups that require additional time to cross.

⊗ Widespread braille trail network to help people with visual limitation move independently. A braille trail is a pathway of paving with dots and dash patterns intended for visually-impaired people walking with a cane. Brisbane’s original braille trail was established in the Queen Street Mall back in 1989. An investment of $90,000 has been made in the recent years to lengthen it.

“At about 1.6 kilometres in length, the Brisbane CBD braille trail network through Queen Street mall, Albert Street, Reddacliff Place and King George Square is the longest continuous braille trail in Australia.”

⊗ Tactile ground surface indicators (TGSIs). The City will continue to install tactile ground surface indicators according to Australian Standards at locations of high use and on request. Brisbane city council will also upgrade bus stops with TGSI’s features in response with users’ requests.

⊗ Consistent, firm and even pathways to prevent from tripping hazards

⊗ Tactile street signs on traffic lights to help residents and visitors navigate the streets. 390 brightly-coloured rectangular signs are now in place across the city at locations selected by residents and associations. Street name and building numbers are printed in braille in yellow raised letters on the same pole and height as the pedestrian push-button.

⊗ Safe unsignalised pedestrian crossings including the design and installation, where appropriate, of footpath build-outs and pedestrian refuge islands.

 

As a reward the council’s investment in the five-year Access and Inclusion Plan, Brisbane won the National Disability, Access and Inclusion Award 2017 Awards. 

Council’s investment in access and inclusion has been recognised across the country. But Brisbane does not stop there and aims at being the world accessibility leader in ten years.

“By 2029 Brisbane will be a city for everybody – known worldwide for embracing all ages, abilities and cultures.”

Graham Quirk, Lord Mayor of Brisbane (2011-2019)

 

How to make Brisbane world accessibility leader?

 

In 2019, the end of Lord mayor Graham Quirk’s term to Adrian Schrinner has triggered the second installment of the inclusive plan: A City for Everyone: Draft Inclusive Brisbane Plan 2019-2029.

This draft includes several accessibility and inclusion projects for the ten years to come to go one step further in making Brisbane truly accessible to blind and partially-sighted people.

Among the new initiatives on the agenda, the creation of digital platforms and apps, which takes a naturally significant part in the program with regard to the physical installations that have been introduced so far. The objective is to leverage those physical accessibility equipment to offer additional digital services.

In 2017, the app Access 4000 was developed to provide real time information on different accessibility features available in businesses and venues around Brisbane such as automated doors, disabled parking and toilets, hearing loop, interpreter, lifts, support for low vision or blindness and wheelchair access.

Furthemore, community organisations and Brisbane Marketing – the city’s economic development board – has partnered to create a mobile phone application with a map and a potentially augmented reality platform to assist people with disability to navigate Brisbane streets, publics spaces, buildings and plan their journey. Acting as an outdoor and indoor digital wayfinding system, this new undergoing project gives great prospects for the autonomy of visually impaired people.

Additionally, to enable Brisbane citizens to be informed of updates on temporary obstacles or closures affecting pedestrians, an online portal will be created. This platform will also give residents better information on community transport and shared vehicle options. By offering this digital solution to its citizens, visually impaired people of Brisbane will finally be aware of disruption of accessible routes.

More information on how to maintain pedestrian accessibility when carrying out street works.

Regarding physical accessibility, the council is planning on investing its efforts on pedestrian crossings enhancements, walking and wheeling tour for people with different sensory needs and the creation of tactile library spaces for visitors with specific needs such as autism or blindness.

 

We are looking forward to the official publication of the 2019-2029 Brisbane Inclusive Plan that will set the tone of the ten years to come regarding the city’s accessibility policy. 

Will Brisbane be the worldwide accessibility leader by 2029 outperforming major european, american and asian cities? 

See you in ten years!

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Between 2012 and 2017, the Council has invested $200 million in implementing the Brisbane Access and Inclusion Plan dedicating part of its effort on Pedestrian mobility and transport. Of the overall amount, approximately $6.8 million were fully dedicated each year to make the city more accessible for all its citizens.

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Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

How to Maintain Pedestrian Accessibility When Carrying out Street Works?

How to Maintain Pedestrian Accessibility When Carrying out Street Works?

How to Maintain Pedestrian Accessibility When Carrying out Street Works?

 

When street works and road works impact the road network, the design of accessible routes is essential to ensure that everyone, whether disabled or not, can move safely. If our sidewalks are adapted to our daily movements, their modifications related to punctual or long-term development activities generate multiple nuisances including the disruption of accessible routes for pedestrians.

Among the most affected pedestrians, the disabled.

How can utility companies safely carry out road works while taking into account the needs of the most vulnerable people in their journeys?

Let’s round up the problems encountered, the good practices in such events and the proven solutions in terms of accessibility on construction sites in our cities.

 

Why value street works’ accessibility?

Who is concerned?

Pedestrians that are the most affected by changes in urban space are people with disabilities. Several types of disabilities can affect a pedestrian’s ability to move safely on a construction site: hearing, visual, motor and mental disabilities.

These forms of disabilities represent about 15% of the global population.

 

What are the difficulties encountered?

 

People with visual impairment need a physical environment that is free of sharp edges, uneven levels, and obstructions that can cause tripping or falling.

Some of the difficulties that a visually impaired pedestrian will often face on road and street works include:

⊗ Not knowing the area is being rebuild until it is reached;

⊗ Not knowing if the sidewalk is closed or if a secure walkway has been laid out;

⊗ Not knowing if the street has to be crossed, you have to go straight or turn back and take another route;

⊗ Not knowing if someone nearby could help;

⊗ Not knowing if the construction site is free of any potentially dangerous obstacles.

 

People with reduced mobility mostly use a walking stick, crutches or a wheelchair to get around. Because of their mobility problems, they usually have trouble moving through narrow passages, turning around, and walking down stairs, which is why the installation of ramps is essential to maintaining access.

Pedestrians with reduced mobility also face significant challenges in the event of street works and road works, especially when:

⊗ Temporary access ramps are too steep, flickering or slippery;

⊗ Passages or maneuvers are too narrow for wheelchairs.

Deaf people may have difficulty in:

⊗ Hearing any warning signals;

⊗ Communicating with the workers;

⊗ Maintaining good visibility on the traffic;

⊗ Concentrating because of the background noise.

As for people with mental or psychological disabilities, the difficulties can be related to:

⊗ Lack of landmarks in case of modified itineraries;

⊗ Difficulty locating oneself on maps detailing the construction site;

⊗ Stress management related to the presence of street works;

⊗ Difficulty to reach the usual route and find one’s bearings.

 

Street works’ good practices

It is always the responsibility of site managers to make sure that pedestrians passing the works are safe. This means protecting them from both the works and passing traffic. Site managers must take into account the needs of children, older people and of course disabled people, having particular regard for visually impaired people. 

In order to do this they must provide a suitable barrier system that safely separates pedestrians from hazards and provides a safe route suitable for people using wheelchairs, mobility scooters, prams or pushchairs. Always be on the lookout for pedestrians who seem confused or who are having difficulty negotiating a temporary route, and be prepared to offer assistance.

The Department for Transport of the United Kingdom as issued a Code of Practice “Safety at Street Works and Road Works” in 2013. This document is a relevant example of good practices to carry out during street works in order to ensure accessibility to all users.

 

Protecting pedestrians with a barrier system

If the works are on or near a footway, then there is a risk that pedestrians might enter the working space. The working space will often contain a number of hazards that could harm pedestrians. For example, pedestrians might trip over material, fall into excavations or be struck by moving or falling equipment.

At all static works, pedestrians must be protected by a continuous system of barriers. Where a works site can be approached by pedestrians crossing from the opposite side of the road, barriers should be placed all around the excavation, even when pedestrians are not diverted into the carriageway. 

While working at a site, site managers must: 

⊗ Check that signs and barriers are still in place;

⊗ Ensure that materials or machinery do not go above or move into the pedestrian space;

⊗ Keep a lookout to prevent pedestrians entering the working space. If so, they must stop immediately all machinery movements and escort the pedestrians back onto a safe route.

Ensure the continuity of pedestrian paths

In the event of street alteration, it is essential to ensure accessible continuity of the pedestrian route, taking into account the needs of all users: the elderly, disabled, children, etc. The new path must be installed in priority on the same side of the road, and, as a last resort, on the opposite sidewalk. This could mean, for example, closing the footway and placing a ‘Footway closed’ sign at the works and an advance ‘Footway closed ahead’ sign at a location where it is safe for people to cross the road. It may be necessary to provide footway ramps on either side of the road at this location.

Another alternative, would be to offer assistance to those who might have difficulty to navigate, including wheelchair or mobility scooter users, visually impaired people, or people with pushchairs.

Ideally, the footway should be a minimum of 1.5 metres wide for temporary situations but if this cannot be achieved, the existing footway can be reduced to an absolute minimum of 1 metre unobstructed width.

 

What accessibility solution for visually impaired people?

 

Temporary signages contribute to the accessibility of urban worksites for a large part of the population but they still leave behind 286 million visually impaired people around the world. Indeed, conventional temporary signage does not alert to the presence of a building site and behavior to adopt in case of vision problems.

The human assistance plays a leading role in this case. On-site staff assistance can provide an answer to people in need but is not entirely satisfactory to ensure constant safety and full autonomy for visually impaired people.

The temporary beacon iBalise developed by the company Serfim is a mobile audio device that informs which path to take if changes are affecting the roadway. The latter is triggered remotely with the universal standard remote control used in particular to activate the messages of permanent audio beacons and accessible pedestrian signal. Audio content and volume can be adjusted in accordance to the needs on-site.

 

Open data: a universal accessibility solution

You are using a stroller and you want to avoid an area of ​​road works that would make you cross a busy street? You are using crutches and you prefer to take the shortest route taking into account alteration of your usual pathway? We are all one day likely to face a situation of temporary reduction of our mobility. Thus it becomes essential to be able to plan our trip upstream to avoid any difficulties.

The data collected is vital to 20% of the population living with permanent disabilities and useful to 100% of the population.

To meet this challenge of universal accessibility, the city of Angers proposed in 2017 a mobile application “Angers Info-Works” to alert its citizens of any changes to road and pedestrian routes. By selecting their destination address, users are informed through personalized alerts of any itinerary changes. Like the city of Angers, Streetco – a collaborative GPS for pedestrians – provides information on the presence of temporary obstacles.

Often free, mobile applications are a medium with a strong potential within reach of all.

But a new medium is upsetting that balance. New York City is currently testing a 3rd generation of accessible pedestrian signals at a crossroads in the city center for the first time. Attached to the masts of the intersections, this equipment will eventually be able to transmit information in audio format on the state of the road and changes of routes in the event of construction sites.

If the tests are conclusive, the prospect of collecting data and transmitting it in real time to users, particularly to blind and visually impaired people, provides a very promising urban accessibility solution. This will be interesting to watch…

media

It is always the responsibility of site managers to make sure that pedestrians passing the works are safe. This means protecting them from both the works and passing traffic. Site managers must take into account the needs of children, older people and of course disabled people, having particular regard for visually impaired people. 

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

8 Clichés About Blind People

8 Clichés About Blind People

8 Clichés About Blind People

 

Maybe it’s because sight is the sense most used by humans or maybe it is because of our deep-rooted fear of the dark, but blindness provokes both dread and curiosity. There are many preconceived ideas about blind people. Here are some that we will now debunk.

1. Blind people have a sixth sense

False. Blind people have one fewer sense, not an extra one.

The word blind simply means unable to see. Over the course of history, blind people have sometimes elicited irrational fears and inordinate admiration at other times, and almost always some form of fascination. Why is a sixth sense often attributed to them? If they sometimes give the impression that they have perceived some preternatural sign, it is only because being deprived of the primary sense used by humans obliges them to use their other senses to a far greater extent than those with sight generally do.

2. Blind people hear better

False. Blind people hear neither better nor worse than the rest of the population.

However, hearing is the principal sense they use to compensate for their lack of sight. With the same auditory acuity, a blind person can capture more sound information than a sighted person. It is first of all a matter of attention to the soundscape and its interpretation. So, you should not be surprised if a blind person hears something that you completely missed. Quite simply, your concentration was on something else, probably what was in front of your eyes.

3. All blind people can read braille

Again false. Only about 10% of blind people can read braille. Far from all of them!

In the majority of cases, blindness occurs after the age of learning to read. This disability affects a large majority of people over 60. So, it is rare that such people would have access to learning braille. Furthermore, the sense of touch can be altered through manual work, an illness or medical treatment. Even when learned early on, braille requires regular practice or it can be lost. It’s not easy to find access to documents in braille on a daily basis.
For the blind people who have mastered it, braille is, nevertheless, a key tool for social and professional inclusion.

4. Braille is a type of foreign language—very difficult to learn

False. Braille is just an alphabet, a code for transcribing letters.

It is a touch-based writing system, where each character comprises a combination of embossed dots. Its 64 different dot combinations are enough to transcribe all letters of the alphabet, including accented letters, figures and punctuation. While mastering braille requires a honed sense of touch, it is, on the other hand, very easy to decode a braille text by sight using an alphabet and some basic rules.

5. Blind people have no concept of colors

It all depends on the age the person became blind.

Obviously, those who have never seen colors will have difficulty imagining them. But the majority of blind people were not always blind. They maintain their visual reference throughout their lives. In any case, even people who were born blind are able understanding the codes connected to colors: red or green light, blue sky or water, green leaves turning red in the fall… There is no need to see to understand the underlying meaning of colors.

6. Blind people don’t dream

False. They do, like everyone else!

Dreams are made up of impressions captured during the day. Sight is the dominant sense among humans, so dreams are mostly composed of a stream of images. For those who have never seen, they do not dream in images. For people who were born blind, their dreams contain impressions originating from other senses: hearing, touch, smell and even taste. For those who could see earlier in life, their dreams can also retain clear images as before or images altered due to the degeneration of their sight.

7. Blind people cannot use a computer

False. Of course they can. Fortunately, there are many adaptations to computers allowing blind people to use a computer.

Screen readers are software programs that read aloud all that appears on a computer screen through a voice synthesis: entered text, web pages, menus, dialog boxes, etc. These programs include keyboard shortcuts allowing the blind user to move from one element to another as a sighted person can do visually. They can also be connected to a braille display, a sort of tablet that creates embossed dots representing the different letters during reading.
These tools, however, are expensive and require intensive training to be able to use effectively. Their effectiveness also relies heavily on how much the software developers and webmasters incorporated digital accessibility into their design.

8.      Blind people cannot use a smartphone

False. This may be more surprising than the fact that they can use a computer.

With their completely smooth screen and near absence of buttons, it is not readily obvious that blind people would be able to use smartphones. But smartphone manufacturers have considered this issue in depth and today offer apps like VoiceOver for iOS and TalkBack for Android. These apps vocalize all actions made on the screen and allow interaction through adapted gestures.

If you like this article, you will love this one as well: 7 Clichés about Psychiatric Disability

Have you any other questions but were afraid to ask? Don’t be shy! Who knows, your question might find a place in a later issue of this webzine.

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For disabled people, disruptions to their means of transportation can cause plenty of stress and added difficulties. That’s why such situations need to be anticipated, more so than for other travelers.

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Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

How Do the Blind Safely Cross the Road?

How Do the Blind Safely Cross the Road?

How Do the Blind Safely Cross the Road?

 

Find a crosswalk, wait for the right moment, get to the opposite sidewalk by walking straight across. It is quite common for the average pedestrian. But for a person who has lost their sight, every step is complicated. This is especially true in today’s urban environments where more and more types of transportation methods coexist. Blind and visually impaired people can do nothing but trust their other working senses such as hearing and touch. Yet, they still need to rely on some clear indicators. This is where adherence to road and public space accessibility regulations makes sense.

Visual and Tactile Clues for Locating a Crosswalk

For people with impaired eyesight who can still make out differences in brightness, the white lines marking crosswalks are an essential aspect. They are also an excellent marker for guide-dogs, which are given the order “find the lines.” It is thus a reliable clue that must be used as much as possible.
Blind people who use a cane to get around, on the other hand, have further difficulties. They first find the general location of crosswalks based on the noise of traffic. Then, they search for tactile paving on the ground. The paving should have an obvious contrast in feeling from the rest of the sidewalk. Its visual contrast is also an aid for the visually impaired because its color generally lasts longer than the paint on the rest of the pavement.

Listening for the Right Moment and Staying the Course

Knowing the moment when the street is free to cross safely is perhaps one of the most distressing tasks for a person who is blind or visually impaired. Hearing is the main sense relied on at this stage.
However, keeping an ear out is not enough! Knowing how to analyze the traffic flow is a necessary skill. How many lanes are there to cross? What vehicles are using the street (cars, bikes, tram, etc.)? Are there traffic lights? Who has right of way? Street crossing skills are acquired through courses on Orientation and Mobility (O&M) for the blind. An O&M specialist is a professional who teaches those with poor eyesight how to orient themselves and walk in safety. It is also through these courses that a blind or visually impaired person knows how to maintain their direction during the crossing.

Limits to the Aids

The white stripes of crosswalks, the tactile paving, Orientation and Mobility training… none of that ever crossed your mind, did it? You are probably saying to yourself that it is great that all that exists, and you would be right! Unfortunately, it is not enough and many factors compromise these aids.

  1. Crosswalks disappear due to time and the constant traffic. They are not always repainted to maintain the visual contrast. Furthermore, many pedestrian crossings are not marked out by white or yellow strips but by more subtle elements such as studs or cobblestones.
  2. Tactile strips are not always placed in a way that serves as an effective point of reference. They are easy to notice when the sidewalk dips so that the change in gradient acts as an indicator. However, urban improvements placing the sidewalk at the same level as the road has become more common in an effort to help the movement of people with reduced mobility. This causes a loss of reference points for visually impaired people and makes it more difficult to find tactile paving. We should not forget either that under dead leaves or snow, the embossed paving can no longer be felt.
  3. The number of vehicles using the street complicates the analysis of traffic by ear. In addition to the number, another complication is the almost silent nature of some vehicles such as bikes or electric cars that share the road with other extremely noisy vehicles like machinery and street cleaners. Furthermore, the absence of different levels or tactile points of references between different streets makes their identification impossible.
  4. Finally, those with impaired vision who have had access to Orientation and Mobility training are very much a minority. O&M specialists are rare and not easily found outside large cities. Meanwhile, the quick changes to the urban environment require continuous refresher courses, which is far from possible today.

 

Are your pedestrian crossings safe for blind people to cross? This article will answer all your questions!

 

Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS): a Vital Solution

Considering all this information, the use of a sound system on pedestrian signals or on other types of street furniture is essential nowadays. Of course, blind and visually impaired pedestrians need some training on the use of acoustic traffic signals. But such traffic signals solve a large number of difficulties, which is the reason why they have been mandated by accessibility regulations in many countries.

  1. Acoustic traffic signals make it easier to find a crosswalk. When they can be activated from a distance by a remote or smartphone, such signals allow visually impaired people to easily locate a pedestrian crossing. They just need to follow the source of the sound.
  2. These types of signals also indicate the best time to start crossing. Even though listening to the traffic remains indispensable in order to avoid accidents with a vehicle running a red light, lights with audio signals greatly facilitate decision-making. The beeps, tweets, bells or voice messages from the lights clearly indicate the moment to cross.
    The customized message with the street name allows a person with impaired vision to distinguish the street they want to cross perpendicular to.
  3. Acoustic signals allow a person to maintain a straight trajectory during the entire crossing.
    Again, thanks to the sound, visually impaired people can orient themselves more easily during the crossing by listening to the sound emanating from the other side. Accordingly, it is essential that acoustic traffic signals are properly installed, as close as possible to the center of the crosswalk.
    Even when pedestrian signals have been removed, for example, to improve traffic flow, it is possible to install audio beacons on buildings or integrate them into street furniture so that essential audible indications can still be provided to the visually impaired.

It should now be clear that crossing the road is an enormous challenge for the blind and visually impaired and not only because they have to deal with cars. Finding the edge of the street and crosswalks and staying on course during the crossing are all just as important tasks. All these issues must be taken into account when developing an accessible roadway.

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The use of a sound system on pedestrian signals or on other types of street furniture is essential nowadays.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.