A new device called STEP-HEAR (stephear.com), enabling blind and partially sighted people to navigate in public places,
is among technologies reviewed by the RNIB’s radio station Insight Radio as part of its reporting from Vision 2008 (www.vision2008.ca).
Vision 2008, held this summer in Montreal, Canada, is the world’s biggest conference on low vision.
STEP-HEAR is a relatively low cost device consisting of two parts. A base station includes a speaker and a small recording device onto which the user can record, re-record or store sounds and messages. The second part, a remote control, can be worn as a pendant, strapped to the wrist or carried in a pocket. When a blind person carrying the remote control walks within range of the base the remote vibrates, prompting the user to press a button to hear the message or sound recorded.
In an interview with Insight Radio Nurit Neustadt-Noy, of the device’s Israeli manufacturer Consultation and Rehabilitation Services, said it could help people distinguish between men’s and women’s toilets, or determine what number bus has arrived at a stop. Another feature could alert the bus driver that a blind person is trying to enter the vehicle so assistance could be offered.
Other possible uses if purchased by individuals could be to help blind people identify their own suitcase on an airport carousel, or to help people navigate back to their hotel room by hanging the base station on the back of the door.
“Or see here in this hall, how many blind people need assistance just to know who are the presenters?” said Neustadt-Noy. “If we put a device in each of the booths, as you walked by it would vibrate and you could press the button and you would know which company is represented there.”
The interview and a wide range of others from the conference can be heard at Insight Radio’s website: fastlink.headstar.com/insight2 .
Other coverage includes an interview with Vincent Lebec from Haptecs, discussing force feedback devices for mobile phones and refreshable tactile graphics devices allowing blind students to access mathematical diagrams in schoolbooks.
Insight Radio – the Glasgow-based station formerly known as VIP On Air – is now broadcast on the web, on Sky channel 0188 and 101 FM in Glasgow. A blind presenter and producer from the station, Michael Hughes, came second in last week’s final of the TV show ‘Big Brother’.