March 16, 2006

Seeing Eye GPS Units for the Blind

Interesting article today in the Boston Globe that talks about how specially designed GPS units can be used to help the blind explore the world without having to rely on others to guide them. The article covers the life changing ability of a GPS equipped laptop computer for the blind can liberate someone from the confines of a well known neighborhood. This particular person is now able to navigate in unfamiliar neighborhoods around Boston or unfamiliar cities across the country.

The software is specially designed to provide safe routes for walking while updating the user to their location and the points of interest around them. The unit also provides a breadcrumb trail feature that allows the user to find his or her way back to their starting point. A solid feature for a unit like this, but while a reasonable regular GPS handheld can be had for a couple of hundred dollars, this whole set-up can cost upwards to a couple of thousand dollars.

“Brian Charlson, who is 50, lost his vision at age 11 in a household accident. Thanks to a GPS system he bought in January, he is navigating the streets he's walked for decades in a whole new way. Instead of painstakingly memorizing routes, he just types in a street address. If he's hungry, he calls up a list of nearby restaurants and chooses on a whim.

The lightweight laptop, which he slings over his shoulder, contains software locating schools, ATMs, stores, cafes, and just about any other possible destination. ''It's not that I couldn't go to these places before," said Charlson, vice president for computer training services at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton. ''But now I don't have to concentrate on counting cross streets when I walk. If I get disoriented, I don't have to ask someone passing by. ''There's a lot I have learned about my own neighborhood, places I have walked by for years but never knew were there."

The unit is a Pac-Mate unit with an added GPS feature. ReadMore at the Freedom Scientific website.

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Posted by Scott Martin at March 16, 2006 6:54 PM

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