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Posts Tagged ‘Transportation and Travel’
Talking BART maps? Yes, talking BART maps. The technology to produce BART maps that audibly describe BART stations is just around the corner and the LightHouse is helping to make this happen.
The LightHouse, working with Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, has produced a prototype for the first-ever talking maps that will enable blind or visually impaired people to handily navigate BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) subway stations. Three of the stations are completed, with the other 41 stations on this BART’s 104-mile subway line soon to follow. Muni Metro underground stations are next on the agenda, and the principal designers – who themselves are blind – envision someday bringing similar innovative devices to many sites across the nation and globe.
The talking maps concept was applied to BART by LightHouse staff and Joshua Miele, a scientist at Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco. Miele directs technology research and development at Smith-Kettlewell.
“I dreamed of doing this for years,” Miele says. “A blind person at an unfamiliar station doesn’t know to head left or right, how to find a ticket kiosk, where to go up onto the street to hop on a bus. You needed to budget time for getting lost, asking strangers for assistance, or both. Well, my solution was making maps talk. The key to that was the arrival of the Smartpen.”
Miele solved the BART map problem by adapting the capability of a Livescribe Smartpen. The new LightHouse produced flip books with tactile graphics have pages with raised symbols – easily detected with a fingertip – that indicate staircases and escalators, bathrooms and exits, and brief Braille captions. The paper also has a subtle, swirling matrix of printed dots. When a user sweeps a map page with a Smartpen (basically, a slim computer with a tiny camera that can read that pattern) a richly detailed audio commentary on each location, including all nearby landscape features and assets, will pour into the user’s ear.
Miele blended the technologies that resulted in the map project, but to actually create the maps, he relies on staff at the LightHouse. “They’ve been the lynchpin of this whole project,” Miele says. The LightHouse has a Braille production facility at its headquarters office, where the Access to Information Services team will produce and distribute the maps.
To make talking BART maps a reality, considerable information had to be gathered. Each station required a detailed study to decide what features to represent. LightHouse Board member Chris Downey, a blind architect, called in colleagues from major architectural firms, like HOK and Gensler, and other members of the AIA (American Institute of Architects) to help. Volunteer teams fanned out across the subway system. Downey says necessary data not only streamed into the LightHouse, but flowed back in the other direction. Participating architects grew much more cognizant of how blind and disabled people experience space – which can influence and improve their future designs.
“It’s the first time a project like this has been accomplished anywhere,” says Miele. “But it won’t be the last. This sort of tool can be used everywhere, airports, bus and train stations, malls, schools, libraries, national parks, even your governor’s office.”
It is estimated that the first talking BART maps will get into riders’ hands by Fall 2013. For more information, please contact Greg Kehret, Director of Access to Information Services, at 415-694-7349 or email@example.com.
Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) is investigating experiences, both positive and negative, of users of travel aggregation websites such as Priceline.com, Orbitz.com, Kayak.com and other similar websites. In particular, DRA is interested in hearing about any problems that blind or low vision users who reside in California might have experienced regarding barriers when attempting to make hotel arrangements, purchase airline tickets or utilize other services that these websites provide. If you are legally blind and have use these aggregation sites please contact DRA and share your stories. Contact Michael Nunez by phone at 510-665-8644 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you answered yes to both of these questions we want you to participate in an online survey!
The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco is conducting an online survey to better understand your experience, and concerns, of the travel risks and dangers associated with using public transportation. For this study we are focusing on BART travel. Regardless of whether you use BART or not, we want to know what you think.
The LightHouse has developed a program of Cohort-Based training for small groups of blind or low vision students so they can take the skills training journey together and stay connected when classes are done.
Webster defines “cohort” as a group of people banded together – working together as a group. LightHouse students that take classes as part of a cohort experience an atmosphere of support, learning and pure enjoyment.
Students in the cohort begin their journey with group training in the following core classes:
- Changing Vision, Changing Life
- Touch Typing for Technology
- Cooking Basics
In addition, each cohort member receives personalized individual Orientation and Mobility Training.
Over a period of two to three months, cohort peers receive training from our experienced instructors and guest mentors. They also learn from and support each other – they become kindred spirits for success in learning new skills, creating a community, embracing change and moving forward.
We began developing cohort training at the LightHouse because we realized that many times people who need blind-skills training are often too busy to make the multi-month time commitment offered by residential training programs. The LightHouse’s open-style cohort training provides flexibility for those who have additional responsibilities in their lives, such as work and taking care of their families.
To learn more, contact Debbie Bacon, Rehabilitation Counselor at 415-694-7357 or email@example.com.
LightHouse clients and staff have a great time and make a statement at the same time on White Cane Awareness Day.
On October 15th over 30 blind and low-vision San Francisco LightHouse clients joined LightHouse staff and volunteers to celebrate White Cane Awareness Day with a lively walk around City Hall and post-walk party in the “Please Touch Community Garden.” Both participants and onlookers were seen sporting ear-to-ear grins as white cane users took to the sunny streets of San Francisco, canes and signs in hand, as a friendly reminder to the public of just how important the white cane is to a blind person’s independence, equality, and personal safety.
Established in 1964, White Cane Awareness Day is a national observance celebrated each year on October 15. It honors the many achievements of blind and low vision individuals, as well as the symbol of the white cane as a signifier of blindness and as an essential tool for independence. In 2011, White Cane Awareness Day was also named Blind Americans Equality Day by President Barack Obama.
Beautiful Enchanted Hills Retreat is located just 25 minutes from downtown Napa on Mount Veeder Road. Want to hold a family reunion but your house is too small and hotels are too expensive? Would your workgroup benefit from an off-site training, team building or retreat? Is your church, club or organization in need of a place to gather where you can get three bountiful meals for a day or a week?
Now that our summer camp season is drawing to a close, we offer rentals of our retreat for groups as small as 20 and as large as 140. For more information and availability, contact 415-694-7310 or email Camp Director Tony Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you an expert on a Muni or Samtrans route? We need your help. The LightHouse is developing “strip maps” which will present concise transit information about selected transit routes in Braille and large print. We are looking for volunteers who will ride or drive along selected Muni or Samtrans bus routes, and take notes, taking inventory of things such as:
- bus stop locations (whether stop is on island or street and if mid-block, nearside corner, far side corner)
- how stops are identified (sign pole, bench, shelter)
- turns in the route (e.g. left, right and cardinal direction of travel)
- intermodal connections and transfer points (e.g. BART station)
We are also looking for individuals who can help with the task of entering this information into our bus route database.
When: Saturday, August 18, 2012, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Where: LightHouse San Francisco Headquarters
Come to the LightHouse to help collect transit information that will increase the independence of blind and visually impaired Bay Area residents. The ideal volunteer should be familiar with specific Muni or Samtrans lines. Knowledge of way finding products such as Sendero GPS or Trekker is a plus. Training will be provided prior to the transit excursions.
Those interested in volunteering please contact Frank Welte at 415-694-73663 or email email@example.com.
Overview and Purpose
Maps are an integral aspect of daily life in our society, conveying essential information about the world we live in. Having access to that information is necessary to participate in society and gives people the ability to do what they couldn’t do before: If newly blind or learning a neighborhood from scratch, having access to maps is a real asset. But for blind people, obtaining maps has been difficult and expensive. However, the LightHouse is making significant change in this area by developing accessible transit maps to enhance the ability of blind and visually impaired individuals to effectively use public transit in the Bay Area. We are developing, and will distribute, “strip maps” which will present concise information about selected transit routes in Braille and large print. The strip maps will be developed for BART, Muni, SamTrans and Caltrain routes.
The optimal candidate might be a Bay Area resident who is familiar with specific Muni or Samtrans bus lines, or who is experienced with the use of way finding products, such as Sendero GPS, but anybody who is interested is welcome to help. Volunteers will be trained prior to their transit excursions.
For more information about this opportunity or to become a volunteer, call Frank Welte at (415) 694-7363 or send Email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Spring, Team LightHouse rode once again in Rotary Club of Napa’s annual Cycle for Sight bicycle event, which benefits our Enchanted Hills Camp. Close to 2500 participants rode singly and in tandem along one of three scenic 50-, 25-, and 15-mile courses that wind among the hills and vineyards of the Napa Valley, as well as enjoying the food and wine festival that followed the ride.
We want to express our immense gratitude to Rotary Club of Napa for choosing to support Enchanted Hills. This year’s Cycle for Sight ride resulted in a $30,000 contribution to camp. We want to honor and thank Justin Geissberger and his family who were responsible for raising $3000 of this total. In addition, we thank LightHouse Board member Margie Donovan for raising close to $2000 on her own to support camp. Gary Morris, who originally came to Cycle for Sight through his connection with Margie, has ridden in the event off and on for the last twenty years. He rode with Team LightHouse this year as pilot with Angel, one of the students from Santa Barbara County (see story below), as the stoker. He was excited to find that with Angel’s help, he broke his personal record for speed saying, “Let me tell you, this was the fastest I ever rode around the course.”
Santa Barbarans Join Team LightHouse
This year, Enchanted Hills Retreat played host to twelve young blind students from Santa Barbara County who partnered with their teachers and volunteers to ride tandem in Cycle for Sight as part of Team LightHouse. The group of young athletes arrived Thursday before the ride and stayed in our comfortable cabins for four days and three nights, experiencing what amounted to a mini-camp session. They enjoyed outdoor activities including boating, swimming, archery and beep-ball, while on Friday, LightHouse volunteer Jerry Edwards instructed the group on the finer points of riding a tandem. After a delicious carbohydrate-rich dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, Camp Director Tony Fletcher led the group in an Earth Day-themed discussion that included topics such as the role Enchanted Hills plays in providing a natural sanctuary for animals that might not thrive in other areas in Napa and how we incorporate energy conservation into the camp routine.
The group rode on Saturday and then came back to Enchanted Hills where they spent a restful night reflecting on the day’s accomplishments. For many students it was the very first time they had attempted such a long bicycle ride and we are so glad to have provided them the opportunity to do so.
On a sunny Bay Area day in May, a handful of young blind sailors took to the waters off Marin County in kayaks. Their object was to paddle the three miles to Angel Island, in San Francisco Bay, for an overnight stay. “We wanted to provide a great opportunity for outdoor fun and kayaking is a perfect summer activity for a group of young adults,” said trip leader and LightHouse Community Service Coordinator Brandon Young.
The group met at the LightHouse and traveled by Golden Gate transit to well-loved locals, Sea Trek in Sausalito. Sea Trek rented the kayaks and equipment while young adults from the Young Leaders program at Environmental Traveling Companions provided one-on-one training and guidance both to and from the island.
Each kayak housed two passengers, a blind kayaker from our group and a guide from Environmental Traveling Companions. The paddle from Sausalito to Angel Island takes about two hours. According to Young, “it was an absolutely beautiful day: the bay was flat and calm with no wind and plenty of sun. We couldn’t have asked for better weather than this.”
With harbor seals and sea birds accompanying them as they sang sea-shanties, the group enjoyed the challenge of keeping together, but not too close together, in the water. They paddled through Richardson Bay and beyond using whistles and hand gestures to keep formation despite the current. “We didn’t bump into each other too much,” Young said with a grin. “It was all done at a very serene, unhurried pace – there were a few people trying to race a little bit but it was mostly a leisurely journey.”
After arriving and unpacking, the young people prepared and consumed a fortifying spaghetti dinner, followed by a night hike and games of cards and dice (no betting, please). They slept on the floor in sleeping bags, staying in one of the historical buildings that remain usable on the island.
The next morning they made breakfast (waffles and bacon), hiked a bit, then cleaned up their lodging and headed back out on the water. Those who craved a little more excitement got their wish as the return journey was not quite as calm. The waves were a little bigger, the current was a little stronger, the tide was, as Young put it, “argumentative”. Of course this just added to the experience, and all-in-all the young people had a great time.
For information about upcoming adventures made available through the LightHouse Adult/Senior Program, please contact Brandon Young at 415-694-7320 or email@example.com. Learn more about Sea Trek at www.seatrek.com, and Environmental Traveling Companions at www.etctrips.org.
The goal of the Better Market Street Project is to revitalize Market Street from Octavia Boulevard to The Embarcadero and reestablish the street as a premier cultural, civic, transportation and economic center of San Francisco and the Bay Area.
How can we make the street safe and efficient to walk, bike and take public transportation? How can we make the sidewalks and public spaces inviting places to shop, linger, experience the arts and enjoy the vibrancy of San Francisco?
Share and discuss your thoughts with urban planners and other transit, bike, and pedestrian mobility experts during the upcoming July workshops. Ideas and feedback are needed to improve the way people move and spend time along the street.
Workshops will be held on Tuesday July 17 from 6:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. and Saturday July 21 from 10:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at the Municipal Transportation Agency located at 1 South Van Ness Avenue, 2nd Floor, Atrium.
Site is wheelchair accessible. To request an ASL interpreter, language assistance or other accommodations, call (510) 285-6746 at least 72 hours in advance.
Unable to attend these workshops in person? Register to attend the webinar on Thursday July 19 from 12:00 p.m. until 1:00 p.m. Register at: www.bettermarketstreetsf.org.