APP REVIEW – BlindSquare
BlindSquare is a specialized GPS application created for visually impaired, blind, and deafblind people. The developers worked closely with these communities to ensure that the application is actually accessible for them, whether they need to navigate indoors or outdoors.
Why BlindSquare Exists
Standard GPS applications have many barriers that make them difficult or impossible for blind, deafblind, and visually impaired people to use. Many of these applications are focused more on the driving navigation experience than walking or for car passengers, so it’s hard to get from one place to another.
Using basic features on standard GPS applications can be problematic if they don’t support voice commands and other assistive functionality.
BlindSquare addresses these GPS application issues and goes a step beyond to create an experience that’s catered to these underserved communities. It works by leveraging iOS GPS capabilities to bring up information from Foursquare and Open Street Map. The application analyzes this data and shares the most relevant information in a clear voice. You can control the application through voice commands and by shaking the smartphone.
It launched in 2012 and has users in over 150 countries globally.
Benefits of BlindSquare
- The most significant benefit ofBlindSquareis the highly specialized and accessible experience it gives to visually impaired, deafblind, and blind users, helping them achieve greater independence. Few applications cover this market or offer the right accessibility features.
- Shaking your smartphone provides you with an announcement covering the address of your current location, nearby venues, and the closest street intersections.
- Automatically get updates on the directionyou’retraveling and the distance to your location.
- Get point of interest suggestions based on the places you visit, popular venues nearby, and other customized recommendations.
- Mark points of interest that you want to visit for easy access.
- Customize the type of spoken information through filters, so you get the most relevant data.
- BlindSquareuses iCloud to sync your saved places to all iOS devices on your account.
- This application leverages iOS’s built-in screen readerVoiceOver, as well as its ownAcapela voices, to provide information.
- Due toBlindSquare’sdeep integration with Foursquare data, you can use it as a Foursquare client. You do need an established Foursquare account if you want to use features such as venue check-in, venue creation, and updates. BlindSquare enhances these capabilities. For example, you can configure auto-check-in, so you automatically go through the Foursquare check-in process when you arrive at your destination.
- This application supports 24 languages.
- Import points of interest from other GPS applications to make them available inBlindSquare. You can also export points from this application.
- You only need your iPhone to use this application–no other accessories are necessary. However, the developer recommends a few useful tools. Bone conduction orAirDrivesheadphones can be helpful for hearing instructions clearly. A Bem wireless speaker band is a good option if you don’t like wearing headphones. For specialists and therapists teaching visually impaired and blind clients how to use BlindSquare, a Bluetooth Splitter allows you and your client to hear the application announcements.
- Access contact information, addresses, Twitter feeds, and restaurant menus directly in the application. You can also make a phone call.
- Whenyou’reriding in a vehicle, the application focuses on points of interest that are ahead of you. It also lets you know each street crossing so you can get off at the right stop even if transit announcements are hard to hear.
Drawbacks of BlindSquare
The biggest drawback of BlindSquare is that it’s only available for iOS 5+ devices. Specifically, you need an iPhone 4 or later, but earlier models have less accurate GPS receivers. The application has a bit of a learning curve, but it’s generally intuitive to use for its intended audience.
BlindSquare is available in two different apps: BlindSquare and BlindSquare Event.
BlindSquare is a paid application for individuals that costs $39.99, along with usage-based voice command fees of $5.99 for 200 voice command credits and $9.99 for 400.
BlindSquare Event is a free version of the application that is made available at registered events that are of particular interest to blind and visually impaired people. When you’re at that event, you have access to most paid BlindSquare functionality. After the event, this application acts as a BlindSquare demo.
BlindSquare Customer Reviews
BlindSquare’s reception is generally positive, and the developer has shown that they value user feedback from the blind and visually impaired communities.
Alternatives to BlindSquare
Lazarillo GPS for Blind is the closest competitor to BlindSquare. The developers also worked closely with the blind community to create an accessible experience. It uses audio announcements to keep you updated about your surroundings and will function in the background. You can use the keyboard or voice commands to search for specific places or to browse through location categories. You also get updated information about your current location. This application is entirely free, so while it’s not as feature-rich as BlindSquare, it has less of a barrier to entry.
The Victor Reader Trek is a talking book player for the blind that includes GPS capabilities. This dedicated device offers an easy-to-use player for audiobooks and podcasts and has several helpful GPS functions. When you press a single button, this device lets you know the current address, which way you’re traveling, the next intersection you’ll run into, and the next step for following a route. It also allows you to create voice tagged points of interest and has a telephone keypad for input. The Victor Reader Trek has a hefty price tag of $795.
BlindSquare offers a GPS user experience that’s not only accessible to the blind and visually impaired community, it’s fun. The integration with FourSquare and Open Street Map provides accurate data, helped by user contributions, and the broad language support opens it up to people worldwide.