Blind World Magazine

GPS positioning system for the blind.

WNDU-TV, Indiana.
Friday, April 21, 2006.

When you think of a global positioning system, or GPS, you probably think of a handy tool for your car.

It may help you find your way to your destination.

Now, it's becoming a tool for people who are blind.

For 10 years, Keegan, a German shepherd has been Brian Charlson's eyes, but now, he has another assistant, in his right ear.

A global positioning system is attached to a laptop that gives people who are blind, precise directions and places of interest, verbally, or in Braille.

"As I walk around, I want to know where I am, and it will tell me the street address of wherever I'm standing," said Charlson. "Now, I'm more convinced than ever that this is the type of device that adds to what I'm already using."

Charlson who is a computer expert at the Carrol Center for the blind, just outside Boston, says technology has changed his life, especially while on frequent out of town business trips, away from his wife.

"I used this to navigate walking from one hotel to the other, and I asked it to give me walking directions from the hotel to the grill," said Charlson.

However, this system has one potential hazard, even as drivers could be distracted by a cell phone, or GPS or radio, users could get caught up in the street by street information and miss critical signals from their seeing eye dog.

"I might get a branch in the face or a sign in the shoulder that he's trying to take me around," says Charlson.

Paul Schroeder of the American Foundation for the Blind says of the GPS system, "It's not a substitute for learning how to travel effectively and independently."

Advocates for the blind, hope to soon offer safety classes to GPS users like Charlson, even as technology helps them find their way.

End of article.

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