AOL’s MapQuest turns out street directions in a trice, but they are of no use to people who are unable to see street signs and landmarks. The American Foundation™ for the Blind (AFB) is partnering with global Internet service provider AOL MapQuest to explore the feasibility of Accessible Walking Directions, a first-of-its-kind effort that represents an ergonomic approach to reducing the handicap of vision loss.
According to a July-August AFB news release about the program, the early prototype technology is intended to harness the vast amounts of data available from MapQuest.
When the program begins, a small group of blind and visually-impaired volunteers in Washington DC and a small town in Iowa will use their computers to explore the AWD service. They will enter beginning and ending locations or select from a list of saved locations to create their route. The prototype’s Trip Viewer will present the route in segments. From there, the user will choose from categories such as coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, etc., to have their locations described along the route. Route segments, cross streets and points of interest will be organized as headings for easy access to specific types of information.
Using white canes and dog guides on routes with which they are familiar, the volunteers will test the accuracy of the directions provided by the system. Their reports will be used to refine the prototype.
AWD is being developed in response to a real need for directions services for blind and visually-impaired people, according to the news release. The AFB and AOL believe that if the technology works well in testing, it may be possible to provide AWD as a free, online service to provide a more detailed set of door-to-door walking directions than those typically available for drivers.
AFB is calling for more volunteers.
Source: American Foundation™ for the Blind