[NFBWATLK] beacons

Mary ellen gabias at telus.net
Thu Jul 20 07:19:49 UTC 2017

As these become more common, some way will have to be found to manage the
verbosity levels. Some blind people will want more information than others;
there should be some way to manage all this information.  Sighted people can
more easily filter out information that doesn't interest them.  For us,
beacons will cause a cacophony of sound.

I also worry about the inference that blind people couldn't travel on Younge
Street before the installation of these beacons.  I had the same objection
when my university put Braille on elevators.  Now I get annoyed if there
isn't Braille on elevators.  As the world changes, so do we. That's why I
particularly appreciated President Riccobono's speech at the banquet.  

-----Original Message-----
From: NFBWATLK [mailto:nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Becky
Frankeberger via NFBWATLK
Sent: Tuesday, July 18, 2017 10:15 AM
To: 'NFB of Washington Talk Mailing List'
Cc: Becky Frankeberger
Subject: [NFBWATLK] becons

A stretch of Yonge St. could become Canada's 'most accessible' neighbourhood

The CNIB is turning to technology in a bid to transform a stretch of one of
Toronto's busiest streets into an area that blind or low-vision people can
navigate independently.

Article Link:

Canada's most high-profile organization supporting people with vision loss
is turning to technology in a bid to create what it calls the country's most
accessible neighbourhood.

The CNIB - formerly known as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind -
says it's hoping to transform a small midtown stretch of Yonge St. into an
area that blind or low-vision people can navigate easily, and also fully
engage with independently.

The organization has partnered with the Rick Hansen Foundation to acquire
beacons that will help blind people locate businesses on the street, then
find their way around inside with confidence.

Read more:

Too few intervenors to assist those who are deaf-blind

Ottawa police to get braille badge covers - a first in Canada, CNIB says

The foundation has funded the purchase of 205 of the roughly 14-centimetre
beacons that stores and restaurants in the test area can acquire free and
program to convey detailed information about the layout of their physical
space to a blind person's mobile phone.

Blind users hail the project as a major innovation, while the CNIB says it's
hoping the initiative convinces businesses that increasing accessibility
makes good fiscal sense.

Inclusive design experts also praise the project, but note that true
accessibility involves designing for a range of abilities and that more
needs to be done if the area is to truly live up to the goal of being the
"most accessible" neighbourhood.

The project's rollout is gradual, with the CNIB persuading businesses in the
quarter-kilometre testing range to get on board.

As beacons slowly begin to proliferate on Yonge between St. Clair Ave. and
Heath St., at least one blind user said the difference is already apparent.

Mark DeMontis said the information available to him through the beacons
gives him a sense of independence he hasn't experienced since losing his
vision 13 years ago.

By opening a GPS app called BlindSquare on his iPhone and listening to the
information relayed by the beacons, DeMontis said he's able to easily
identify business entrances on the sidewalk, then find his way to various
features once he gets inside.

The beacons can be customized to the space they're occupying, he explained.
For instance, a restaurant may choose to communicate the location of tables,
washrooms and staircases, while stores may be more interested in making sure
visually impaired customers can quickly locate cash registers, retail
displays or change rooms.

Walking into a business making proper use of the beacons, he said, is a
liberating experience.

"I went so many years with a sense of frustration because I tried to do
things that I used to do really independently on my own," DeMontis said in a
telephone interview. "Because now I have the tools, and I have the knowledge
and the information (on) how to do this successfully . it's a great sense
that I'm regaining independence."

The CNIB estimates that 10,000 community members will visit the organization
MTQ1M2Y5ZjhmYjFmNDNcIl19In0> 's new hub near Yonge and St. Clair in the 
MTQ1M2Y5ZjhmYjFmNDNcIl19In0> next

"We've been open for a month and have already had 1,000 visitors, so we're
on track so far. It was also an estimation based on the number of clients we
have in the GTA and the fact that we will be open evenings, weekends, etc.,
and not just conventional 9-to-5 business hours," wrote CNIB spokesperson
Kat Clarke in an email Monday.

Clarke said the CNIB has 15,000 registered clients in Toronto and upwards of
20,000 in the GTA.

The project is meant not only to increase accessibility for visually
impaired people, but also to send a broader message to corporations and

Angela Bonfanti, the CNIB's executive director for the Greater Toronto Area,
said many businesses are under the erroneous impression that making their
premises more accessible is an expensive and arduous undertaking.

She challenged that notion, saying the rewards for embracing an underserved
market would more than make up for the relatively low expense of making a
space more accessible.

Having more businesses take the lead, she argued, could push governments to
follow suit.

"If we can show that an entire neighbourhood can get together and work
together to show what accessibility looks like, then you really have some
great research," she said. "And we'll go to our local governments and say,
'The legislatures, the chambers, the museums, you name it, you need to do
this. You need a beacon in every publicly funded building, because we're
taxpayers, too.'"

Praise for the project came from at least one industry expert, who
nonetheless urged companies not to forget that true accessibility involves
catering to a wide spectrum of needs beyond vision loss.

Thea Kurdi, universal design specialist with accessibility consultants
DesignAble, called the CNIB's project exciting and innovative, adding that
most conversations about building design tend to focus on wheelchair users
rather than people with other disabilities.

But Kurdi said true inclusivity involves designing for users ranging in age
from 5 to 95 whose needs and abilities will vary greatly over their

She said technology can be a valuable tool in an inclusive design project,
but it should not be viewed as the entire solution.

"The hope has been that technology is going to fill the gap. And I warn
people about that," she said. "If you said to a person with vision loss,
'Your phone is going to take care of it. You're going to bring the solution
with you,' that does allow the user to pick the right solution for
themselves, but it's also kind of akin to telling a person who uses a
mobility assistive device, 'You bring your own ramp.'"

Kurdi said even simple tweaks to interior spaces can improve accessibility
for all. Laying carpeting or making other acoustic tweaks can simplify life
for the hard-of-hearing; using higher-contrast paints or railings to
delineate spaces can help people with low vision; and switching door
hardware from knobs to levers can make a difference for people with physical




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