In the past few years, Google has shifted the way that it thinks about accessibility, moving from grassroots advocacy to codified systems. Beyond making all its products accessible, the next big challenge is finding ways for its technology to help disabled people navigate the wider world.
To make public transit work for everyone, today we’re introducing “wheelchair accessible” routes in transit navigation to make getting around easier for those with mobility needs.
The Amherst Center for Senior Services has installed new signs and a color-coding system to help its members navigate the 53,000-square-foot facility.
Human Computer Interaction researcher Elke Folmer, based out of the University of Nevada, Reno, has developed an interior navigation system for people with little or no sight. Instead of relying on expensive sensing equipment or augmentations to the building in which the device is used, Navatar uses accelerometers, a low cost technology available in smartphones.
Indoor navigation is made more manageable by the infrastructure of the building. Users are limited by hallways and doors, and are less likely to veer as they would outdoors. Typically, to generate a precise layout of the area, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags are used. These devices combine an antenna and compass into a small package for use with other technologies. However, they are very expensive to implement. Navatar uses what’s known as Dead Reckoning, a less precise but less expensive technology, in conjunction with a virtual rendering of the building being navigated, and the users’ confirmation of the presence of tactile landmarks as they navigate. Using a virtual rendering created by such products as Google’s Sketchup, a user can receive step by step navigation via their phones.