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Second Sense - Beyond Vision Loss

BlindSquare: A Wonderful Mobility Aid

September 1, 2016 | Leave a Comment

by Shawn Sturges

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Shawn using BlindSquare on his iPhone in Chicago
As we lose our sight to various conditions, often times the fear of a lack of independence begins to creep into our minds.  I have experienced this many times, but with time and adaptive technology, that fear has slowly dissipated.

Over the years I have used various technologies to help out with my mobility and travel, but none has been as life changing as the iPhone.  Recently, I have obtained the BlindSquare app and I’d like to share several of the features of this wonderful app in hopes that you, too, will give it a try.

BlindSquare works in conjunction with Foursquare, another social media app.  BlindSquare uses all of the Foursquare information, but takes it several steps further. The app provides audio announcements allowing you to hear the surrounding destinations announced as you approach them. You will discover new and interesting destinations that before you would never have known were there unless a sighted individual told you about them.  As I began to use this app on a daily basis, I have discovered so much more about my surroundings and have learned about new destinations I would like to visit.


Finding What You Need

When you first open BlindSquare, you will notice a listing of categories. You can search for places that have arts & entertainment, colleges & universities, food, transportation and lots more.  Once you select the desired category, a listing of the nearby destinations that fit that description will appear. You will then be able to see the address and distance to the location.  Once the location is chosen, you have the option to start tracking to your destination. This allows you to hear periodic announcements for direction and distance. You can also use a third party app like Google Maps or Apple Maps to plan a route.   You’ll get the turn-by-turn directions and the additional information BlindSquare offers.


Learning About Your Surroundings

One nice feature of BlindSquare is the street announcements as you approach them. It allows you to begin the construction of a mental map of your surroundings.  This feature has truly enhanced my travel skills because I no longer need to count streets, but rather learn the names of the streets. Now I don’t need to be dropped off in the same location every time when traveling to my favorite destinations.

I have also found it quite useful to use BlindSquare in a car or bus. While the vehicle moves throughout the city, I can learn more about locations that I never knew were there and later, plan a new route to new destinations in other parts of the city.


Reading Maps

The Show-on-Map is a great feature for the truly adventurous user that wants a plethora of additional information about their surroundings.  After selecting a destination from within a category, choose Show-on-Map to bring up a map that you can explore by dragging your finger over the screen.  Whatever is under your finger will be announced by BlindSquare.

The really neat feature of this map option is when following a road with your finger, as you approach each intersection, it announces the street crossing out loud.  I love this feature because I can explore all the intersections around a particular destination in the comfort of my own home prior to the start of my journey. I have found that this limits the number of potential surprises when I reach the area of my destination.


More Options

These features are by no means all the options BlindSquare offers.  Some other options include creating your own points of interest, using iBeacons for indoor travel where these devices are installed, and saving all your settings to the cloud to use on your other devices.

I hope you take the time to explore what BlindSquare can do in terms of independent travel.  This app should not replace the skills gained through orientation & mobility lessons, but rather be used in tandem to gain the confidence to explore your environment.  If any of us ever cross paths, I hope we can share our BlindSquare adventures along with any tips & tricks to better utilize this fantastic tool for adventure!

Shawn is one of Second’s Sense technology tutors.  He is also social media marketing manager for Sassy B Worldwide Productions, Inc. and general manager of Genesis X Fitness.

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