Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Navigating Your Environment Using Sight Compass

There are not many things that are more embarrassing to me than feeling lost in a public bathroom. None of them are set up the same, and even with a guide dog or cane, it can be difficult to find everything you need. Since GPS doesn’t work well indoors, there needs to be a better solution.

Well, a company called Sight Compass has found the solution by using Bluetooth technology. Their free app provides the blind with detailed descriptions of indoor and outdoor locations using a combination of a free iOS app and a special box that stores pertinent information.

At this year’s CSUN, the company revealed its technology by programming multiple boxes to give attendees instructions on the hotel layout, directions to bathrooms and elevators, and even instructions on where the dog relieving area and trash can were. To hear a demonstration of the app, listen to this blind bargains interview: http://www.blindbargains.com/audio.php?m=8193

Right now the technology is very new and is not available in a lot of locations, but the company hopes that this will change over time. One aspect of this technology that could slow its progress is that the box that connects to the mobile app and offers information and directions costs $499. What this means, is that although it is available to private citizens, it will likely be purchased primarily by schools and government agencies until the costs come down.

Even though the cost is high, the benefits could be life changing for people. Orientation and Mobility instructors can use the boxes to help their clients orient to new environments much faster, visitors to government offices can feel empowered because they don’t have to ask for directions to different parts of the building, and because the technology can be used anywhere, even outdoor locations like hiking trails could become more usable to the blind.

The company currently has pilot projects at the Seattle Lighthouse and the Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix. If you visit either of these locations, download the app and test it out. Also, if you know any Orientation and Mobility instructors, let them know that the company is looking for instructors to test out the technology in other areas.

To learn more about the company and their technology, visit their website at: http://www.sightcompass.com

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