‘Talking’ maps to prompt all
More than 500 GPS-navigation routes being developed for visually impaired in Brest Region
Special applications for mobile phones are being designed to help those who are visually impaired, following in the footsteps of routes already developed for Brest, Pinsk and Kobrin. In the near future, the Drogichin District and the Brest Region will also receive ‘talking routes’. Data on 3,000 routes countrywide is being collated and added to a database, linked to a satellite navigator. Users need only specify their destination to receive prompting from their ‘talking map’. Each operation is carried out on a touch screen, accompanied by an audio-description of the route.
The system includes the most useful and socially significant sites, such as railway stations, polyclinics, hospitals, administration buildings, large shopping centres and libraries. If someone arriving at Brest’s railway station needs help in finding their way, they can simply ask their phone where to move and how. Thanks to the special programme for mobile phones, routes are described step-by-step, detailing the street, turns, barriers, and possible dangers.
According to one of the developers of the on-line map for the Brest Region, Andrey Levitsky, individual routes may yet be developed. He explains, “We cannot adapt the system to every disabled person so we are focusing on covering the most significant routes, used by almost everyone. Saying that, we will also respond to requests.”
The initiative is part of the international educational project Mobility for Blind and Visually Impaired People in Belarus, in co-operation with the Swedish-Finnish Svefi School. It is one of four joint Belarusian-Swedish projects to help those with visual impairment, using modern technical means. In all, 30 experts have worked on the initiative in Belarus, with five in the Brest Region.
By Vasily Khmelevsky