Beacons boost Melbourne CBD access for people with low vision

By intouch posted 11 December 2019 06:06

  

​New beacons along Melbourne’s Bourke and Swanston streets will send audio messages about potential obstacles to users’ phones, to help people with low vision or blindness get around the city.

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The City of Melbourne commissioned Guide Dogs Victoria to develop a program using a phone app to provide information about intersections, construction and public transport.

“Accessibility is an important part of everything we do at the City of Melbourne, including helping people find their way around our city,” said Councillor Beverley Pinder, Chair of the People City portfolio.

“Melbourne is growing and as our city changes it’s vital that we support people living with low vision, blindness or other disabilities to remain confident and independent getting around.”

The beacons use an existing phone app, BlindSquare, to provide detailed audio messages with information that is not provided by other map-based tools, such as Google Maps. This includes the location of obstacles, such as bollards, and information about construction works in the area. The messages are available in 25 languages.

The technology uses a combination of virtual GPS beacons at intersections and physical beacons located at prominent CBD locations. The City of Melbourne completed user testing in August, taking advice from people with low vision or blindness to ensure the app’s information is helpful and relevant.

Guide Dogs Victoria CEO Karen Hayes said, “We commend City of Melbourne for their collaboration in further bringing this exciting technology to life across the city, and we look forward to seeing more organisations do the same.”

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