I took great interest in Toyota’s March announcement of Project BLAID. It is a wearable device being developed to assist the blind and visually impaired with greater independence and mobility. It will integrate cameras and communication via vibrations and sound to interact with and direct a blind or visually impaired person to more easily locate such things as escalators and restrooms.
“Mobility is a right, not a privilege.” Toyota hopes to provide the ‘freedom to move’ to everyone and that has pushed them past creating automobiles and into innovations like Project BLAID which will empower the visually impaired to experience more of the world. This can be something as simple as navigating public restrooms.
I am a visually impaired wife, mother, grandmother, author, volunteer and Team Member at Dallas-based Brinker International where I have worked for 21 years. I was born with glaucoma and have spent my entire life seeking out ways to enhance and compensate for my extremely poor eyesight. In school there were large print text books provided by the State Commission for the Blind and also recorded books for listening to assigned reading. Those stories recorded on large record albums were my favorite advance in technology in the 60s and 70s. They allowed my tired eyes to rest and turned me into a terrific listener. Eventually, computers found their way onto desks in workplaces across the land and I found magnification software to help me keep pace with the technology.
Today, I can listen to books and other materials on my computer or IPod and my phone responds to voice commands to text, find information or phone a friend.
On July 26, 1990, President George Bush signed the “Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990” (ADA), a momentous and groundbreaking law. It established comprehensive protections for people with a variety of disabilities in many aspects of public life, a first for any modern country.
Technology has enabled me to be a contributing member of society. My life is happier and more fulfilled because of it. I tell my story with the hope of encouraging innovators to keep working creatively to make life activities more accessible to every person. And to assure individuals who are faced with disabilities to seek and use assistive technologies to enable them to live most fully while contributing from their unique perspectives on life.