Beacons offer life without limits in capital

Published: Mon 19 Sep 2016 09:49 AM
19 September 2016
Beacons offer life without limits in capital
Wellington City Council is proud to be working closely with the Blind Foundation to introduce a new product to the capital which will help people with sight loss comfortably navigate the city and its businesses.
BlindSquare is aimed at customers and visitors who are blind or have low vision or a print disability. Using the BlindSquare Event iPhone navigation app, this service gives customers the opportunity to explore their city with independence.
Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says our Council’s Smart Capital strategy is inclusive.
“This initiative is a first for New Zealand and will build Wellington’s reputation as a smart and accessible destination.
“BlindSquare and Beacons will welcome people with visual impairments to participate fully in the life of the city,” says the Mayor.
Five percent of New Zealanders are registered as being blind or having low vision, so this initiative will make a real difference to a significant proportion of our population says Chair of the Council’s Community, Sport and Recreation Committee, Councillor Paul Eagle.
“We pride ourselves on being forward thinking when it comes to technology and accessibility, and this tool combines both for locals and visitors who are blind or have low vision.” Beacons have pre-programmed messages that are spoken from BlindSquare when the devices are in proximity of each other – this includes details about the building, facilities, products, and nearby streets.
Councillor David Lee initially pitched the idea to Council’s Community Services team, and helped get the ball rolling.
“When I first heard about this technology from the Blind Foundation I knew it had potential, and using Wellington as a test site has already proved successful with a number installed at CQ Hotel on Cuba Street.
“This clever tool is cheap and easy to install and use, benefits people with sight impairments but it could also be implemented for use by the wider community for navigation – like mapping out venues, facilities, and entrances.”
The Blind Foundation’s Thomas Bryan says the BlindSquare and Beacon project will be an enabler for him and other people with sight loss.
“This will give credence to our goal of life without limits for all people – and we’re looking forward to it really being embraced by our community and businesses alike.”
A special version of BlindSquare called BlindSquare EVENT is now available on the iTunes store for free and unlimited use while in Wellington, but only works on iPhone 4S or newer. An Android version is pending release.
The project is a partnership between Wellington City Council, the Blind Foundation, Radiola Smart Transit,, and BlindSquare.

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