GTT National Conference Call
Get Together with Technology
December 9 2015.
Tom Dekker Donna Hudon Albert Ruel (facilitator and presenter),
1. Blind Square GPS App:
Tom started out the presentation on BlindSquare. Blind square has its own voice, and works well with Voice over as well. The buttons and tabs you will find on the app include:
Search, Add Place, Tools, 4Square, Other Button and Filter Announcements.
Tom reviewed the options available in the Filter Announcements and recommends the use of Streets and My Places. That will announce all streets as they are crossed and the locations you have favorited.
2-finger double tab turns on and off the Blind Square voice, and a 3-finger double tap turns on and off the Voiceover voice. The Blind Square voice mute is at the top right corner of the screen and is a toggle meaning that if you double tap it once, it mutes speech and if you double tap with one finger again, it unmutes speech.
Add Places: allows the operator to add Points of Interest by categories, address and while one is standing near it.
Tools: the Look Around is a valuable feature in the Tools Tab and will announce intersections and Points of interest in the area and in the direction the operator is pointing the iPhone. Limits can be set for the range within which Blind Square will announce what it finds.
Search: uses a variety of categories from which to suggest places one might be interested in, and once located the operator can double tap the Favourite toggle and have Blind Square announce each time it gets within range of the device. When a location is selected more info can be read for that place or business.
Blind Square does not give you turn by turn directions. The Tracking feature can be invoked which will tell the operator how far away and at which direction the specified location will be found. Blind square can be asked for nearby addresses to that location as well. Check it out at:
Q: Can plan a route be used if a location is not favourited?
A: Yes. As long as you can select it you can start to track toward it. Addresses can be taken from the iPhones’ Contact List and tracked from there as well.
Q: Does it only give directions by the clock or compass?
A: You can set it to give direction using Cardinal Directions as well.
Q: Does it matter which direction you hold the phone?
A: Just having the phone in your pocket it will determine your direction of travel. Some bone conducting headphones will allow you to operate the app using the in-line buttons. Pointing the phone in various directions will allow you to determinpoints of interest (POIs) and other info in that direction. Also, shaking the phone will invoke the Look Around feature providing next intersection and travel direction info. Lots of features can be turned on or off in the Other Button menu.
Q: If I were walking to a corner in my City will Blind Square tell me about the building and the businesses therein?
A: Not yet, however Apple has available something called iBeacons that will provide access to interior spaces. Tim Horton’s in Ontario has started a pilot project of making iBeacons in some of their stores.
As you walk along the street, Blind Square will announce the stores or buildings you pass in many cases. Sometimes they even announce bus stops if they have been marked by someone.
Irene indicated that she uses blind square when riding her horse. She sets up Way-Tags in the Add Places Tab for places like the mailbox, ditches and so on. Blind square then warns her as she approaches them allowing her the time to steer the horse around them without injuring her shins.
Tom indicated that BlindSquare is the app that has helped him to learn the Victoria downtown area since moving there about 2 years ago.
2. Trekker Breeze Stand-alone GPS Device:
Donna started out the demo on the Trekker Breeze by turning on the Key Describer feature, hold down the button 3, so that each time a button is pressed Trekker will announce what each key will do. The new Breeze is smaller than the original. There are 9 buttons in a number keypad configuration.
Trekker will announce how far you’ve travelled, your altitude and many other helpful bits of info. Trekker can also reverse routes once you have reached your destination, and addresses can be inserted for turn by turn instructions to your favourite places. Points of interest in many categories can also be used to receive turn by turn instructions, and landmarks can be set and labelled as Points of interest along the way. It ships with all Canadian maps, and additional world maps can be purchased for trips abroad.
The Explorer feature allows the user to virtually walk a neighbourhood anywhere on the installed maps from the comfort of their living room.
Note: that blind squarevery has a simulation mode which allows you to find out what is around a location you may be travelling too.
Kim used this when travelling to the braille conference in Toronto to find out what was around the hotel.
Donna offered to take questions rather than work through each item that can be done with the Trekker. A question was asked about the battery, which is thought to be about 15 hours of constant use. The Trekker shifts from vehicle mode to pedestrian mode automatically, and offers different levels of info depending on those modes. More intersection info is available in pedestrian mode.
Donna reiterated that because Trekker is separate from her phone she finds it more convenient.
Addresses can be typed in with the number keypad, and landmarks can be marked for future use, like garbage cans, park benches etc.
Donna indicated that her recent upgrade didn’t seem to add functionality, and others indicated that the battery life is since increased as a result. James indicated that his works better in the downtown concrete canyons, and Donna hasn’t found that to be the case with her upgraded Trekker. The old Trekker Breeze often lost contact with satellites, which was to be remedied with the 2015 $200 upgrade. It was suggested that the Trekker be turned on a few minutes before leaving so that connection can be secured before the trip begins. Trekker seems to connect better than trying it once movement has started.
Maps are upgraded on regular bases so new places of business and new neighbourhoods become available quite quickly. Map updates are free.
Trekker gives intersection info like, 3-way, 4-way and 5-way intersections, city boundaries for larger metropolitan areas, and name changes of streets as one travels by vehicle or pedestrian. Without inserting an address one can merely walk while Trekker announces the streets as they are approached. It will also announce your points of interest as you pass them, which offers a means of familiarizing oneself with a community.
An external speaker is available that clips to a collar so that it can be heard without blocking ones ears for safety. Bone conducting headphones can also be attached to this device for the same reason.
Note: You cannot use the bluetooth bone conduction head phones with the trekker. You must get wired headphones for this.
The bluetooth bone conduction headphones will work with blind square.
The most common bone conduction headphones are made by afshokz.
Many of the access technology companies in Canada sell them but they can also be purchased on amazon and now even in the apple store online.
For more info check out:
3. iMove GPS App:
A question was asked about iMove by Everywhere Technologies, an app for the iPhone which seems to be free, and available for iPhone, iPad and iPod. You can learn more at:
4. Seeing Eye GPS App:
Albert then gave an overview of the Sendero Seeing Eye GPS app for the iPhone. It is currently being used as a subscription app that appears to fetch a price of $79 USD for an additional year, and $6.99 for additional months. Albert indicated that it cannot be purchased outright, which has since been determined to be incorrect. The outright purchase of the app is $399 USD. A similar app is available for the BrailleNote and BrrailleSense note takers.
The main front screen offers many helpful items like the nearest intersection, nearest address, direction of travel, location accuracy and altitude. The menus are, Routes, POIs, Location, Maps and Settings. Other than the Maps Menu all are very accessible. Maps takes you to Google maps which appears to require vision to use effectively.
Note: You can use google maps but it does take some learning. Kim is able to use it on the iphone after much practice. If anyone wants some help with it, let her know.
The Look Around Wand in Seeing Eye is very similar to that which Tom demonstrated with Blind Square. It allows you to see in different directions all that is in your vicinity. I have also purchased a $5 Sendero app called Look Around that will give me that info by merely shaking the phone.
The Route Creation Menu offers several ways to get to where I want to go. The first is a Route to Home button which will give me turn by turn instructions back to the address I’ve labelled as “Home”. The POI Button will offer many categories of businesses, schools, churches and other types of places I might wish to find and be directed to. The Address Button allows me to insert any address and have Seeing Eye take me there. The History Button takes the user back to previously accessed addresses or Points of Interest.
The POI Menu allows me to type the name of a business I want, and Seeing Eye will search for and list the findings from my area. Double tapping on the desired one provides the options of being directed as a pedestrian, driver, transit user or bicyclist.
One of the drawbacks to the app is how quickly it drains the battery. For daily use of this app to get to and from work one will be wise to secure an additional battery pack. Albert has noticed that Blind Square uses less battery power than Seeing Eye.
For more info check out:
A question was asked as to whether Blind Square and Seeing Eye would be used together, and which might be preferred. They are not used together and they don’t necessarily do the same things. Granted, all three GPS devices presented today will tell you where you are and they will announce streets as you travel, however Blind Square doesn’t give turn by turn instructions and both Trekker and Seeing Eye do. All three use POIs as a means of locating and alerting the user to their having arrived.
What’s the difference between the free Sendero Look Around and the Seeing Eye app? The Look Around app merely gives the user nearby intersection, POI and address locations, whereas Seeing Eye will guide the user to selected locations with turn by turn instructions. I also use the Seeing Eye to keep an eye on the driver’s speed of travel, altitude and direction of travel while on route.
5. Nearby Explorer for Android Smart Phones:
A question was asked about accessible GPS apps for Android. There is one called Nearby Explorer which was produced by the American Printing House for the Blind.
A question was asked about the data usage for these iPhone apps. Lorne Webber indicated that Seeing Eye uses data to load the map when a search for an address is done, and that no further data will be used once the map is loaded. If another search is conducted then it will access data once again. No firm answer was available regarding Blind Square and data usage though, however it isn’t believed to be large as no pictures or other large items are being accessed by the apps. Donna indicated that Sendero Look Around requires data in order to function.
6. MyWay Lite and Classic:
Another app mentioned is My Way Lite, which is free, and My Way Classic which costs about $20. They both use data in order to download the maps to your iPhone, then don’t require data to do the actual navigation.
Irene indicated that with the screen locked she uses Blind Square with little in the way of battery drainage and hardly any data provided the wayfinding tags are saved. Data will be required for the saving of any additional wayfinding tags though.
7. Kapten Plus GPS and App:
Irene asked about the Kapten Plus GPS device. Leader Dogs in Michigan used to provide these devices for their graduates, however they have since stopped doing so. She used it for about 4 years and found that it worked fairly well, however that it didn’t give her as much info as Blind Square or Trekker. Irene further suggested that the Kapten Plus app for the iPhone was impossible for her to manage so she is recommending that it be avoided. It is available through Canadialog:
8. Ariadne GPS App:
Donna mentioned Ariadne GPS which she also uses on her iPhone. It can be found at:
9. Google and Apple Map Apps for the iPhone:
Lorne suggested that Google Maps when he’s travelling with a sighted driver offers him good info regarding the lane to be in when accessing needed off-ramps. Although blind travelers don’t always need such info, it can be helpful when he’s navigating for the driver, and his experience is that it’s very accessible with Voice Over. Apple Maps are also good, however Lorne prefers Google Maps.
10. Bad Elf GPS Antenna:
Lorne further suggested that separate GPS antenna can be purchased for use with iPhone GPS apps. One such example is the Bad Elf GPS Antenna. Visit http://www.bad-elf.com to learn more about the Bad Elf GPS, GPS Pro/Pro+, and the GNSS Surveyor accessories, which add a high performance GPS receiver to the iPod touch, iPhone, and iPad via the 30-pin dock connector, Lighting connector, or Bluetooth. The GPS data is usable by ALL location-based iOS applications in the App Store.
If anyone has any more GPS solutions for people who are blind or have low vision, please let us know at
Or call Kim at 1-877-304-0968 X. 513.
Or Albert at 1-877-304-0968 X. 550.