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Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Bridges Blog Independent Living Resources Orientation and Mobility Series: Orientation October 2021

Orientation October: Useful Apps for Reading Signage, Purchasing Transit Tickets, and Getting Transit Scheduling Information

Using Technology for the Details

When traveling with a white cane, individuals have many techniques that they use to obtain the information they need to go where they want to go. A summary of these techniques can be found in last week’s post, Useful Apps for Navigation: Google Maps and Blind Square. At the Bridges Helpdesk, we know that the more tools individuals have in their toolbox, the better. Individual users can then make educated choices about which methods they want to use depending on the situation and the information needed.

There are times when technology can enhance the traveling experience, whether the traveler is looking to read a quick sign to become more oriented or they want to use an app to check a schedule. Below are some resources and tips which can serve as helpful additions to the orientation and mobility toolbox.

Reading Signs and Schedules

Whether it is a street name sign, a boarding location sign, or a bus stop sign, knowing what a sign says can help orient someone to their location. Similarly, having access to a schedule of transit options can help someone plan their routine or activity. There are lots of ways for blind/low vision individuals to access this information, even though it is not at first glance accessible to them. There are many non-technological solutions to this, but if a person wants to use technology to figure it out, here are some options:

  • Aira is an app in which the user can contact a sighted agent in real-time to obtain information about their environment using the smartphone’s camera. Agents have the capability to take photos of the user’s surroundings to help them zoom in on the text of signs or schedules. Several months ago, the Bridges Helpdesk published a post, Aira in Action, about Aira and its many features.
  • Seeing AI is a text recognition app that reads text aloud to the user. It has a variety of different modes depending on the desired task. You could use this app to read a schedule, a list of cabs and their contact numbers, or use the Short Text mode for signage text. The Bridges Helpdesk published a post on this app as well, called Seeing AI.
  • In the electronic age in which we live, almost all transit schedules can be accessed online. You can access scheduling information using your local transit authority’s website, and many transit sites even have a specific trip planning feature. Individuals can also utilize third-party apps such as Transit (Transit app in the Apple App Store and Transit app in the Google Play store) or Google Maps (in the transit mode) (Google Maps app in the Apple App Store and Google Maps app in the Google Play store).

Purchasing Tickets

Fewer stations than ever are operating without a ticket counter run by a human employee, and with this change comes inaccessible ticket purchasing kiosks. Some transit systems have very accessible ticketing machines, but even then, there is often only one or two machines with audio feedback and these could either be in use or in disrepair. Luckily, the two major transit authorities that cover areas in Maryland have apps for ticket purchasing. If you live outside of the greater Baltimore or Washington, D.C. regions, it is possible that your local transit authority may provide online ticket purchasing as well. Feel free to peruse your local transit website and contact the Bridges Helpdesk anytime for additional support.

Contact Us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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Blog Live Chat

I AM: Monday, October 25, 2021

Are you taking care of yourself?  This I AM session can help!! We have Debbie Feierman from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Office of Program Operations and Local Engagement, speak about their FLU campaign message as well as Medicare Open Enrollment and the upcoming Open Enrollment for people on Marketplace plans. Dionne Haney from the Maryland Healthy Smiles Program presents on the benefits of their program.

Recording of the Independence Amplified Maryland event from October 25, 2021.

Don’t forget to visit our registration website to donate to support these events or register for upcoming calls!

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Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Bridges Blog Series: Orientation October 2021

Orientation October: Useful Apps for Navigation: Google Maps and Blind Square

Techniques for Travel

When a person travels using their white cane, they have lots of techniques for learning a new environment and exploring their surroundings at their disposal.

Asking questions of passersby such as clarifying which block a destination is on, asking what intersection one is standing at, or inquiring which building is next to one’s current location can yield very helpful information about one’s environment.

Relying on other senses aside from sight can be very enlightening when discovering new aspects of one’s environment. A quiet thrum can indicate where the vending machines are, and the beeping sounds of cash registers can indicate where the checkout line at a store is located. Sometimes, finding the best coffee shop on campus is as simple as walking down the block, entering the place where the smell of delicious coffee is coming from, and ordering a coffee.

Individuals can also work with travel or O&M instructors on learning their new environment. Many times, this service is provided through the school district or DORS, and the Bridges Helpdesk can work with you on getting this service covered if needed.

Most cane users employ a combination of all of these methods, and also add in some additional tools in the form of apps on their smartphones. GPS apps are not perfect, and it is important to use other tools in your toolbox to get around while also using the apps to supplement your travel experience. Below, we will detail two useful apps for navigating and gathering information about one’s environment. There are others, and we encourage users to try them out and have fun!

BlindSquare

BlindSquare was developed from Foursquare and it has many features that can enhance location and destination identification. Users can enjoy many customizable features which include but are not limited to the following:

  • Shaking your phone while the app is open will give you your current address and speak information such as the closest intersection and popular cafes and other points of interest that are around you.
  • As you walk along the route and listen to the app’s directions, the app will periodically announce what direction you are headed in and along what street to help you maintain orientation. You will also hear the voice navigation announce what you are passing in real-time.
  • The app allows users to filter information that they want to hear. For example, if you only want to hear about nearby post offices, you can filter out all other mentions of other locations and points of interest.
  • Users can drop markers so that the app can use voice guidance to guide them back to their starting point after navigating to their destination.
  • Some users find it helpful to keep the app open when they are riding in a car or on public transportation because it will speak out the streets and points of interest one is passing. This can be a great tool when learning the layout of a new neighborhood or trying to contextualize what a bus line includes.

Blind Square is only available for iOS users in the App Store. The Blind Square event app is available at no cost, but Blind Square Event is only a demo version unless used at certain, limited events. The full version of Blind Square costs $39.99. Learn more about Blind Square or see it in action on Blind Square’s Help page.

Google Maps

This app was not specifically designed for blind and low vision users. In fact, this app has several modes and can be used if one is driving to a location, using public transportation, walking, or even bicycling.

The walking mode can allow you to preview the route that you will need to take to get to a specific location. You can also choose to start the route and Google’s Voice Navigation will speak directions to you as you progress on your travels.

Many users find Google Maps helpful because it can give information about which buses or trains to catch to get to a specific destination when using the app in the public transportation mode. The app also provides multiple public transportation route suggestions if available so you can evaluate which one will work best for you.

You can also use the app for giving driving directions to a driver or ensuring that that driver is heading to the requested destination. This app also has the ability to help you discover places around you and has the capability for you to call those places if needed by the push of the button in the app.

Google Maps is available at no cost and can be used with iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome operating systems.

Contact Us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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Blog Live Chat

I AM: Monday, October 18, 2021

The Maryland State Library for the Blind and Print Disabled provides comprehensive library services to Marylanders unable to access standard print. The library provides books and magazines options in braille and audio formats, books in large print, and accessible newspapers. Additionally, the library provides:

  • Assistive technology training and a Technology User Group for peer to peer support
  • Accessible college textbooks for students enrolled in 2 to 4 year Maryland colleges
  • Programs and events via telephone, Zoom, and tactile engagement
  • Collaborative programs and events with community partners to provide access to other organizations

All services are free to qualified Marylanders. Applications and additional information can be found on the library’s website: www.lbph.maryland.gov

Recording of the Independence Amplified Maryland event from October 18, 2021.

Don’t forget to visit our registration website to donate to support these events or register for upcoming calls!

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Teen Blog

Oct21 Newsletter Teen and Young Adult Programs

Highlights

Congratulations to our 2021 Student Awardees

This year IMAGE and VME honored two students for their exemplary service at our Solutions 2021 celebration event. Our teen and young adult programs would not be the same without the dedication and growth of our students. Check out this year’s awardees.

Student of the Year: Rebecca Parker
Rebecca has participated in IMAGE Teen and Young Adult programs since 2016. Over the last five years Rebecca has grown from a shy, cautious participant in our Connect Program to a confidently aware self-advocate selected as our first ever Peer Mentor in that program. Rebecca has served as a student advocate in many instances sharing her journey toward greater independence with fellow students of many programs. At IMAGE we have watched Rebecca shape her abilities and set job readiness goals that best suit her passion of helping others. Rebecca has made many contributions to IMAGE programming helping to pave the way for other student advocates and we could not be prouder of her growth and progress. Congratulations Rebecca!

Peer Mentor of the Year: Ciara Gentry posing all wrapped up in sticky notes and toilet paper during a fun Halloween activity to reduce stereotypes.

Peer Mentor of the Year: Ciara Gentry
Ciara has been with IMAGE teen and young adult programs for the last three years. Most recently she has begun contributing to our programs as a Peer Mentor. In this role Ciara works to assist her peers by exuberating skills of leadership and self-advocacy. Tonight, we would like to congratulate her in receiving the Peer Mentor of the Year award. Thank you Ciara for your contribution to our programs. We are so proud of the steps you are taking to grow your own independence and that of your peers! 

Peer Mentor Spotlight

Cartoon Sticky Note that says “Next Time”.
Fall Application is CLOSED!

Applications for students wishing to become Peer Mentors for the Fall session of the Connect program have now closed!
Interested in applying for Peer Mentorship?
Application will reopen this winter! Stay tuned!

Questions? Email Jessica Leone at Jleone@imagemd.org

Upcoming Events

Three female Connect Program participants posing together for a picture outside at a Picnic Table.
Three female Connect participants posing together during a Connect program event.

The Connect Program
STILL TIME TO REGISTER for the Fall session!

October 19th 6-7pm (Virtual)November 2nd 6-8pm (In-Person)November 16th 6-7pm (Virtual)November 30th 6-8pm (In-Person)December 14th 6-7pm (Virtual)December 28th (In-Person)

The Connect Program is a program that empowers teens and young adults with disabilities to step outside of their comfort zone, make connections with their community, build social experiences and recognize and achieve skills needed for increased independence in adulthood. These skills include money management, time management, social and communication skills, personal hygiene, meal planning and decision making skills just to name a few.

Contact jleone@imagemd.org learn more.
Click here to Register

PreETS Self Awareness and Self Advocacy Training Program
Registration for the September/October session is FULL! Registrations are now open for sessions beginning in November.

Want to be referred for this program? Contact Jessica Leone jleone@imagemd.org for information
The Self Awareness & Self Advocacy Training program through DORS is a five week program utilizing curriculum designed to empower teens with disabilities to explore areas of self awareness and promote the importance of self advocacy to enhance the overall independence and vocational opportunity of each student. During this program students will work with professional staff from The IMAGE Center to begin to engage in curriculum addressing Self Awareness & Advocacy, Disclosing Disability, Rights, Future Outlook, Transition Outlook and Utilizing Resources.
Contact jleone@imagemd.org learn more.

Support Youth Programs at The IMAGE Center

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Hands holding a growing plant.
Sponsor a Student Today!
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