Thursday, July 20, 2006.
Blind people are to be guided around Birmingham city centre by a series of talking signs, it emerged today.
The Wayfinder system, due to be launched today, uses a fob to activate audio directions from speakers placed close to pavements around the city centre.
There are already 57 speaker units in place, with a further three due to be installed later this year.
The 60 individual sets of directions were recorded by BBC WM's Drivetime presenter, Paul Franks.
He said: "It must be the most unusual request I've ever had - to record so many different sets of instructions, but I'm flattered to be chosen.
"It's a fantastic scheme, and I hope it makes the city centre that much more accessible for blind and partially sighted people, locals and visitors alike."
The scheme cost £165,000 and was funded by the City Council working in partnership with charities and groups for the blind, such as the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB), Birmingham Focus on Blindness, Guide Dogs for the Blind and the Queen Alexandra College. Councillor Len Gregory, who is the member responsible for transportation and street services, said: "This is an excellent system to assist blind and partially sighted people find their way around Birmingham city centre. This means people can more easily find transport in the city, their places of work, shopping venues, public services and visitor attractions." Rob Legge, chief executive of Birmingham Focus on Blindness, said: "Sight loss is a traumatic experience. It affects every aspect of a person's life. Our aim is to help the 30,000 children and adults in Birmingham with sight loss to achieve a better quality of life. "Birmingham Focus is delighted to be working with the Council and also with other partners on the Wayfinder project." The launch of the Wayfinder system is taking place during Queen Alexandra College's annual Sight Village event - Europe's largest exhibition of technology and services for people with sight impairment.
The Wayfinder fobs can be bought or hired from Birmingham Focus on Blindness or from Birmingham Shopmobility.
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