An update from Julian Jackson, VisionBridge

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As a blind advocate for eye research and assistive technology (AT), I have a personal as well as professional interest in the ongoing tech evolution and revolution that is focusing on maximising accessibility and inclusivity for vi/blind communities in built environments.

Alongside our basic discovery scientists, there is an equally impressive cohort of technology developers in universities and the private sector who are working tirelessly to rehabilitate visually impaired individuals with AT, whether it is integrated into a computer, iPad, iPhone or indeed features in Smart portables or wearables.

Two stand-out examples are the fields of digital wayfinding and Smart (Crossing) infrastructure.  Technology which promises to support blind and partially sighted people to remain as mobile, independent, safe, and informed as possible, whilst moving around the built environment.

This sets the bar very high for tech developers, as we need highly accurate and reliable wayfinding solutions that do not necessarily need constant GPS connectivity, can be kept in the pocket, and navigate us from point to point both inside and outside with step-by-step description, re-routing, live update and human and/or AI support functionality. We also need to orientate to our surroundings and indeed avoid obstacles and recognise objects at the same time.

Crucially, we also need to cross the road safely and this requires the ability to trigger the traffic lights on our command, armed with the appropriate assistive technology. It is worth noting that the transferable impact that eye research has been making in other areas of research such as cancer, diabetes, and dementia, is also reflected in the tech innovations that are emerging from vi/blind assistive tech which can now support those with a variety of sensory, motor, and cognitive challenges. This is brilliantly demonstrated in Smart Crossings, where a SmartButton and SmartTube have been devised alongside the SmartWrist and SmartCane for vi/blind users.

Assistive technology is continually developing and we now have a potential reality of a “safe and seamless end-to-end journey solution” which we have all been dreaming about!

To find out more please email Julian Jackson, Founder and CEO, VisionBridge.

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