I recently attended the “High Tech O&M” professional development conference at Perkins School for the Blind. The conference provided an extensive overview of Blindsquare, an accessible GPS-app available for the iPhone and iPad. As a 5th year Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist, I continue to find it somewhat intimidating to learn all of the new technology that is out there. This conference was just what I needed to gain knowledge and confidence in the O&M Tech-World.
Blindsquare is an app available for purchase in the Apple Store. With a price tag of $39.99, I really wanted to try the app out and learn as much as I could about it before I recommended it to students. I was more than impressed with the capabilities of the app as well as the user functionality. Despite my reservations, I want everyone to know that it was actually really EASY to learn the basics of Blindsquare!
As a brief overview, Blindsquare is an accessible indoor/outdoor GPS-app developed for the blind and visually impaired. Its key features include the ability to announce points of interest, street intersections and the ability to save previously located places. Blindsquare can provide information about your current location, your surroundings and venues nearby. It can also connect to a third party navigational app, like Apple or Google Maps in order to give turn by turn directions to a specific address. You can tailor the settings in Blindsquare in order to receive as much or little information as you would like. As a “newbie” user, I compiled a list of helpful tips for using the App, as well as a quick “How To” video showing a student who has just learned how to save a location with the App.
HELPFUL TIPS FOR THE BEGINNER
Since Blindsquare runs in conjunction with Voiceover, it is helpful to choose a voice that is easy to decipher from Apple’s Voiceover. Here’s how to change the Voice Synthesizer in Blindsquare:
Choose a speaking rate that you are comfortable with:
On the home screen of Blindsquare, points of interest are divided by category including Food, Shopping, Outdoors & Recreation, Arts & Entertainment and many others. Let’s say you’re in an unfamiliar city and would like to find a bite to eat. You can search what’s around you by selecting “Food” on the home screen.
Next, Blindsquare can populate a list of restaurants near you by distance, or you can search by type of food with a list of Subcategories.
(Side Note: If you are meeting someone, you can easily share the address of this restaurant with a friend by selecting “share this place”, which gives you the option of texting or emailing the address to your chosen contact.)
I met with a high school student who was kind enough to take some time to explore the Blindsquare app and its functions. This is Nick, an honors student who has excellent orientation and mobility skills, as well as a strong command of Voiceover. Within a matter of 30 minutes, he had learned how to customize his settings, search for a destination, share a place, plan a route and add a place. I asked Nick to demonstrate how to use Blindsquare to save a place. In this instance, he is saving the walkway to the town library, because there are multiple walkways and a driveway within close proximity. By saving the walkway to the main entrance of the library, Nick is providing himself with the cue to turn to find the main entrance. Check out the link below to watch him in action!