Campus News | Friday, May 4, 2018
Finding the way to and around Columbus State’s campus is getting easier for individuals with blindness, low vision, and other disabilities thanks to a $10,000 pilot grant from state agency Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD). The grant-funded infrastructure that makes it possible for people to use an iPhone app called BlindSquare.
BlindSquare allows a user’s iPhone to interact with a system of small beacons posted around campus that provide audio directions to various locations, including Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) bus stops. These beacons also provide directions to app users once inside campus buildings. You may notice the small, puck-like devices mounted at certain building entrances.
“We are very grateful to Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities for helping make this service to students, faculty and staff, and visitors with disabilities a reality,” said Tiffany McClain, director of Disability Services. “We are currently the only higher education institution in Ohio to offer this technology. We believe this will help not only with our current faculty, staff and students, but also be a differentiator for student recruitment.”
“BlindSquare will definitely help out blind or visually impaired students find their way around campus,” said student Boniface Womber, who helped test the app’s implementation at Columbus State. “It makes things easier for everybody when it comes to the navigation process.”
Launched on campus in March, a free version of the BlindSquare app works within five kilometers (3.1 miles) of Columbus State. The paid version, which is funded by OOD for individuals receiving services through the agency, works regardless of distance. “That’s particularly useful for students with disabilities to get audio assistance navigating to our COTA stops,” McClain said.
Beyond vision impairment, BlindSquare can be useful to individuals with cognitive or mobility disabilities who may benefit from audio validation that they are headed in the right direction. The Office of Disability Services currently serves a total of 1,200 students, many of whom could receive a benefit from the app.