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).
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.
- CharmPass is an accessible app that allows users to purchase and present tickets directly on their smartphones. The app supports tickets for all MTA transit, including buses, light rail, and MARC train. Learn more about Charm Pass and download it (Charm Pass app in the Apple App Store and Charm Pass app in the Google Play store).
- The SmarTrip app, which includes ticketing for buses in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties as well as the metro which links directly into Washington, D.C., is another great ticketing app. You can learn more about SmarTrip and download it (SmarTrip app in the Apple App Store and SmarTrip app in the Google Play store).
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:
- Our Accessible web form
- Email: Helpdesk@imagemd.org
- Text: Send to: (410) 305-9199
- Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page or Facebook Messenger
- Voice mail: Call (443) 320-4003, leave a voice mail message, and we will return your call
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.