By TILEAH DOBSON
An innovative idea to assist those with visual impairments has become a reality. People who are blind will now have a new way to navigate their way through places like shopping centres via a unique app on their phones.
BindiMaps, the app in question, helps a user accurately navigate indoor spaces. This is made possible through an audio system that describes what’s around the user and where they are, along with calculating the best path to get to their destination.
BindiMaps uses a mixture of Bluetooth network beacons, a mapping and routine guidance system and smartphone sensors. Founded in 2017, BindiMaps stems from co-founder Dr Anna Wright’s desire to make life easier for the visually impaired.
The Sentinel spoke with one of the other co-founders of BindiMaps, Tony Burrett, who enthusiastically spoke more about the innovative mobile app.
“She (Dr Anna Wright) realised that existing accessibility features like Braille labelling and Tactiles don’t constitute a navigation and wayfinding system for someone who is blind or vision impaired,” he said.
“If you are close enough to read the Braille label next to the meeting room door, you are already at the meeting room. The Braille doesn’t tell you how to get there. This means that, particularly in large or unfamiliar spaces, people who are blind need to have a human with them to show them around, so they are not independent travellers.
“Other people with accessibility needs, such as those in wheelchairs, have other requirements around navigation and wayfinding that are also not catered to by existing accessibility standards. BindiMaps solves that problem, providing accessible navigation and wayfinding for everyone, including those with accessibility needs.”
In order to accurately test the app, BindiMaps worked with organisations such as Guide Dogs, Vision Australia, the Royal Society for the Blind and many others. After much testing with individual users as well, BindiMaps is now available in certain areas across NSW, Victoria, the ACT, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland.
Since its initial launch, BindiMaps has received a positive response from both users and partners, according to Burrett.
“It’s very positive. We feel there is an increasing understanding that this technology can help make all our public and other spaces accessible to everyone,” he said.
“When we set up a new location, we often ask a user who is blind to test it for us to make sure all is well. When they are in a large shopping centre where they have never before, following the BindiMaps audio directions and the app announces, ‘you have arrived’, it is always an amazing reaction.”
While they have received some government grants to help with the cost, most of the revenue comes from building owners and managers who have paid to have BindiMaps installed in their buildings.
For more information and what places are compatible with BindiMaps, visit https://bindimaps.com.
Tileah Dobson is the news editor and sub-editor of the Sydney Sentinel.
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