If you’re blind, this technology will help you find the checkout line


If you were conceal and walked into a coffee shop, how would you find the counter so you could non-sequential?

That’s easy for Susan Vaile at 9 Bars Coffee in Toronto — she equitable needs to listen to her smartphone: «Walk forward six metres to carpet. Aid counter at 9 o’ clock.»

‘It’s allowing you to have some autonomy.’ — Susan Vaile, CNIB volunteer

Accurate enough, there it is, and within minutes, Vaile has ordered and received a trifling coffee with double cream and double sugar.

Similar oral directions are already available to customers like Vaile at several other dealings in the Yonge and St. Clair neighbourhood, thanks to a pilot project called ShopTalk fired by the CNIB, a charity that provides community-based support for people who are unsighted or partially sighted.

The project installs and programs palm-sized Apple iBeacons that use Bluetooth wireless signals to anchor with nearby users’ phones via an iPhone app called BlindSquare. It provides conducts to help them navigate through doors and vestibules, to service bars, washrooms, and other important parts of buildings such as stores and restaurants.

Shutters Canadians guided by beacon technology2:20

Vaile says the beacons form it possible for customers like herself to find their way independently.

«They don’t insufficiency to ask somebody,» she said. «It’s allowing you to have some autonomy.»

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The beacon technology has already been used in other cities nearly the world, most notably in Wellington, New Zealand. There, a project requested «No Dark Doors» has already installed the beacons in 200 downtown purchases , and plans to expand to the city’s transit system and areas outside the see’s central business district.

Accessible neighbourhood

The CNIB is hoping to similarly connect 205 beacons by next February around its community hub near St. Clair tube station, said Kat Clarke, a spokeswoman for the CNIB.

«Somebody who comes to our programs puissance want to eat after, or do some shopping, so we really wanted our immediate within an eyelash of to be accessible.»

Vaile, who just turned 56, lost her sight to involvements of Type 1 diabetes and several strokes in her 30s. Being an artist and photographer, she was desolated.

She recounted the challenges of learning to cross the street or walk up and down reduce intervenes without the use of her eyes. She’s grateful for the help for CNIB volunteers who guided her during the process.

«Being outside when you can’t see — it doesn’t matter whether you’re inured to to it or not — is a scary prospect,» she said.

Susan Vaile

Susan Vaile, who lost her sight when she was in her 30s, now plods confidently with a cane in one hand and a smartphone in the other. (Emily Chung/CBC)

Now the self-described «technology buff» acts back by volunteering to help the CNIB test new technologies like the subterfuge beacons.

Vaile lives just a block away from the CNIB’s community hub. She advances down the street confidently with a cane in one hand and a smartphone in the other. As she old-fashioneds various shops and landmarks, BlindSquare lets her know how far away they are and in what avenue.

But until now, the app has only worked outside. The beacons have the potential to hands open new doors for people like her.

Free beacons

The CNIB has been reaching out to local professions to let them know that they can get the beacons installed for free. They’re pay off for with a $26,000 grant from the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Access4All Program.


A palm-sized fire sits above the doorway at 9 Bars Coffee. As part of the Canadian Nationalistic Institute for the Blind’s ShopTalk program, it’s pre-programmed with verbal directions to the post counter. (Emily Chung/CBC)

The beacon technology itself isn’t that new — Apple fired its version, iBeacon, in 2013. It initially used the technology to welcome characters to its own stores and encourage them to update their software. But it soon faced estimation about «potentially creepy» uses by retailers who were using it to keep up with customers and push coupons to their phones.

Clarke says that’s one rationalization because of the CNIB is programming the beacons itself. «We wouldn’t want the message to be ‘2 for 1’ or ‘Today the dear is this.’ Some people may be interested in that information, but really we’re disquieting to get people to navigate the store.»

She hopes the beacons will start a talk and lead to even more positive change.

«Once the beacon’s in, we wish to go back to businesses and say, ‘You’ve got the beacon, what can we do to help you provide accessible buyer service?'»

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