Visually impaired students use technology to get around Fremont

2011-04-21T11:00:00Z Visually impaired students use technology to get around FremontSpecial to the Tribune Fremont Tribune
April 21, 2011 11:00 am  • 

Legally blind students from Mary Robinson's Group Home Teaching class were on a mission to locate the nearest ice cream shop.

Before the quest began, mentors shared with the students their Trekker Breeze, a newer piece of technology. The Trekker Breeze is a handheld talking global positioning system (GPS) for people who are blind or visually impaired. It verbally announces names of streets, intersections and landmarks as the traveler progresses.

The Breeze lets the traveler know where they are, where they are going and what is around them, such as stores and public services. Trekker Breeze allows travelers to put themselves in a place and virtually walk around, similar to the sighted population using Google maps.

The group accomplished the walk to the local Zesto's ice cream shop in no time at all.

"We even had time to enjoy a delicious ice cream cone outdoors before returning to the classroom," Robinson said.

When everyone finished their treat, it was time to travel back. Not a problem. With a simple push of a button on the Breeze, the route was reversed.

The group made it back to their point of origin safely and efficiently where discussion about the experience took place. Everyone agreed it was nice to set a location and know where they were going to see if it was within walking distance. Others mentioned that it was nice to know the names of businesses around them.

Joslynn Weyer, a high school student, said she really liked using it and thought it was easy to operate.

After the quest was over, the group determined that although technology is convenient, it is still more important for the traveler to have and use their own skills.

"While modern technology may be a useful tool to assist travelers with vision loss, it should remain complimentary," Robinson said. "Having good cane skills, orientation skills, and spatial awareness are essential for successful, independent living."

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