Part 3: Navigating outdoor spaces
While much of the adaptive technology that is available for the visually impaired is designed to help in the home or at work, there are new technologies that are making navigating outdoor spaces easier as well. From your garden to your mailbox, you can increase accessibility around your home and out in the community with these adaptive technology devices. The tips below can help you navigate the outdoor environment with confidence and increased safety.
- Use a talking GPS navigation bracelet to get around town. When combined with a guide dog or cane, a GPS navigation bracelet can give you the confidence to get out into your community, without fear of getting lost or running into something. Project Bee is a prototype that is showing excellent promise for this particular need.
- Install motion sensors near entry ways. This will alert you to the presence of a visitor or a package delivery, so you can respond as needed when someone comes to your door.
- Invest in a voice-activated garage door opener. Though push-button garage door openers are fairly easy, a voice-activated option is even easier. These also allow you to open the garage door without physically being in the garage, which can help when you are expecting company or a large delivery.
- Choose a smart mailbox. Stop walking to the mailbox only to find that you do not actually have any mail. A smart mailbox will send you an alert when something is placed inside, so you can make the trip only when you really need to do so. This will also protect you from missing an important delivery because you did not realize the mail had arrived.
- Install sensors near plants to detect water level. A garden can be a blessing to someone with low vision. The pleasing scent of the flowers and the overall tranquility of a garden space are enjoyable even without excellent vision. However, gardening presents challenges. It can be hard to judge whether plants have enough water when you cannot see them well for signs that they need watering. Sensors in the dirt around flowers can alert you to low water levels and help make sure you water the garden appropriately.
- Use smart sprinklers to keep your lawn healthy. Smart sprinklers use sensors in the soil to determine if the lawn needs to be watered and automatically tackle this task when it needs to be completed. Some smart sprinkler systems also have live weather feeds that monitor the weather to shut off if rain is anticipated.
- Make use of an oral electronic vision aid. This new technology, known as BrainPort, gives people with vision impairment a pair of special camera-equipped sunglasses to wear. The glasses are connected to a small electrical device held in the mouth. The cameras detect the environment around the individual, then send small electrical stimulation to the device, which relays patterns that the wearer can feel on the tongue. For example, if the user looks at a ball, they will feel a small, round disk on the tongue, and can avoid the obstacle in the path.
- Use technology that connects a vision impaired individual with a sighted individual. A program created with a partnership between AT&T and Aira is using smart glasses and remote guides to help blind or vision-challenged individuals navigate an environment.
For more information about technology that can help with navigating the outdoors, visit:
- National Institutes of Health: Sensor-Based Assistive Devices for Visually-Impaired People: Current Status, Challenges and Future Directions
- Noisy Vision: Apps and Devices for Blind and Visually Impaired People
- Cnet: For the Blind, Google Glass Offers a Clear Path Ahead
- Digital Trends: Best Smart Garden Products