August 11, 2005.
Leader Dogs for the Blind is offering training on a portable Global Positioning System for the blind that allows users to know where they are, learn about area attractions and get directions.
The device, called Trekker, is worn around the neck. The unit allows the user to give voice commands, ask questions and hear it respond. Trekker is made by VisuAide, a division of HumanWare, an international company with products aimed at enhancing the lives of people with disabilities.
"I think the biggest fear of the blind is getting lost," Al Paganelli, of Las Vegas, who is undergoing Trekker training with Gail Selfridge of Denver, told The Daily Oakland Press for a Thursday story.
"With GPS and Trekker, I'm not likely to get lost," said Paganelli. "Usually a blind person takes a job within walking distance of their home, but with this technology, I can work and go anywhere."
Selfridge and Paganelli are the first to get the training through Leader Dogs, officials said.
Leader Dogs may have to add staff to meet demand, said president William Hansen. But, he added, technology won't replace leader dogs, since they help navigate the unexpected and respond to the environment. Dogs also offer companionship.
"It's never going to lick your hand," Hansen told The Daily Tribune of Royal Oak.
The training program is being offered for free at Leader Dogs for the Blind in this Detroit suburb, with room and board provided. The training takes five days, and the device costs about $1,640.
Selfridge and Paganelli, who both use guide dogs, started their training Monday. The Trekker device will be used in conjunction with Paganelli's guide dog, Trouble, and Selfridge's dog, Maggie.
On the Net: HumanWare: http://www.humanware.com
Leader Dogs for the Blind: http://www.leaderdog.org
Source URL: http://www.freep.com/news/statewire/sw119712_20050811.htm.
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