Sarah Blake LaRose (3kitties) wrote,
Sarah Blake LaRose

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GPS demo

I have been installing and configuring a product on my cell phone called Mobile Geo which works with a screen reader to provide GPS access for people who are blind. My first task was to install 12 GB of US map data onto my storage card; and then I set about learning the very basic steps in virtually exploring the neighborhood. This means I can "wander the streets" without ever leaving home. This will come in handy when I am in new areas and want to see how the neighborhood is laid out.

I took a walk this morning to see how it works in realtime. I understand now why people with dog guides are often cautioned that use of GPS can interfere with working their dogs. I also understand that there are ways in which it can help. I needed to have my mind on numerous things at one time: what my dog was doing, what the device was telling me, what the traffic was doing, other environmental sounds, and my own thoughts. This is not always easy; and not everyone can do it. There are times when I need to put the device away, times when I need to stop walking and think, etc. A police car came down the road and the siren distracted me badly, and Loretta started to get jumpy. I stopped, had her sit, and waited till it passed by. I was able to continue after that. This kind of thing often disorients me badly.

Mobile Geo gave me information about points of interest that I passed and which side of the street they were on. If I walked down X street after getting off Z street and approached Y intersection, it said, "X street, so many feet, 12 o'clock Y street 6 o'clock Z street." If I turned down Y street, it said, "Y street, heading whatever direction (e.g. west)." This will be very helpful if I veer and need to recover. It also gave me information about the direction of streets at intersections when I pulled up detailed information.

I am just beginning to learn about the capabilities of this software. I walked down to the drugstore and home. My home destination did not identify correctly, so I'll have to work on that. The drugstore was identified accurately when I was walking across the driveway. Some false points of interest were also identified along the way. This indicates that GPS software is not entirely reliable. However, having access to a good bit of information about my surroundings increased my general feeling of alertness and safety. It amazes me that blind people are supposed to travel confidently, reject assistance, etc, without such information.

Right click and save to listen to a sample recording from the walk.


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