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New system helps visually impaired navigate city hall

A new system to help guide the city`s visually impaired around city hall is now active, making Oshawa the first North American municipality to do so.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

A new system to help guide the city’s visually impaired around city hall is now active, making Oshawa the first in North America to adopt such technology at its civic headquarters.

Launched on Aug. 7, the BlindSquare wayfinding system helps individuals who are blind or experience low vision to easily navigate the building and surrounding property.

The mobile technology uses a number of GPS capabilities and beacons to describe the surrounding environment and announces points of interest to the user. According to a release from the city, the BlindSquare coverage area includes a two-kilometre radius around city hall and can communicate information about street intersections, the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, the Oshawa Public Library’s McLaughlin branch, the Durham Regional Police Service station, and surrounding transit stops.

The app is available in 26 different languages.

“It makes the building more accessible to everyone,” says Mayor John Henry. “It guides them through the building. It really is an amazing system, it tells you where you are, it tells you where the elevator is. It was amazing to watch it launch here and then actually see it as it was applied right in real time within the building.”

The free BlindSquare app is available for iPhone users through the Apple store. Currently, an Android version is in development with a launch date targeted for late-2018.

“I’m proud of the staff that brought forward this idea….and then to see it in use, what a great story,” Henry says. “Oshawa has had number of leads in the last little while, our TeachingCity initiative, dealing with this BlindSquare process, the technology is simply amazing and it’s another interesting day in the city of Oshawa where we’re able to say we did it first.”