Guelph University Accessibility Conference 2015

Guelph University Accessibility Conference 2015

Slide 1 – Speaker Presentation

  • Location: University of Guelph, Guelph Ontario Canada N1G 2W1
  • Conference Theme: Choosing Bridges over Barriers – Integrating Inclusion into All that We Do
  • Date: Monday, May 25 – Wednesday, May 27, 2015
  • Contact: (519) 767-5000, or
  • Web Site: University Of Guelph Accessibility Conference

Slide 2 – BlindSquare – Vision Through Digital Communications

Sponsored By:
BlindSquare, The World Leading Accessible GPS App
U-R-Able, Accelerating Independence For People Living With Visual Impairments

  • Summary: An opportunity to share information and experiences in advancing emerging technologies for greater independence through BlindSquare.
  • Description: Explore the world with confidence and freedom of independence, through the BlindSquare virtual accessible user interface. Come and share in the exciting experience of an increasingly mobile society. Emerging GPS, WayFinding and Crowd-Sourcing technologies are changing our lives, and having a liberating impact on persons with vision loss. Learn about the power of realtime information, and how you can be a collaborating partner in building the digital infrastructure. This interactive dialog session will inspire and motivate participants with creative ideas for barrier free innovative mobility tools. Digital communication is bridging the gap between the blind and sighted world!
  • Objectives:
    To gain a greater understanding of the communication needs for blind persons in a highly mobile and digital world.
    To gain a greater appreciation of the talents and abilities of blind persons.
    To inspire and motivate individuals living with vision loss.
    To become an active advocate in bridging the communication divide, by getting emerging technologies into the hands of blind persons.

Slide 3 – Important Participant Information

Powerpoint Presentation Session Notes (pptx)
The presentation notes for the 45 minute session can be found in the attached Powerpoint 2010 document.

BlindSq Event, by MIPSoft, is a free app available on the Itunes stor
All conference participants are encouraged to use the BlindSq Event iOS App to experience the GeoGuidance while attending the conference. The BlindSq Event app works only at the time and venue of various events, which are for the Blind and Visually Impaired of particular interest.

BlindSquare, by MIPSoft, is a GPS app available on the iTunes Store
BlindSquare is a new solution that combines the latest technology to help the blind with their daily lives. It has been developed in collaboration with blind people and carefully field tested. You need either an iPhone or an iPad to get started. It also supports some additional accessories to enhance the experience. BlindSquare uses GPS and the compass to locate you. It then gathers information about the surrounding environment from FourSquare. BlindSquare has some unique algorithms to decide what information is the most relevant and then speaks it to you with high quality speech synthesis.

Customized Location Information Service (CLIS)
The Customized Location Information Service, developed by MIPsoft, allows organizations to provide customized information about their premises to blind and visually impaired guests, clients, students, or staff who use an iOS-device running BlindSquare or BlindSq Event. Through a simple online interface, organizations can enter GPS coordinates of points of interest and descriptions of these points. BlindSquare can retrieve this information as soon as it is entered or updated and will read it out to the BlindSquare user. The University of Iowa employs CLIS to notify blind students of entrances of buildings, steps, or temporary construction work, when they approach an entrance or an obstacle. If a familiar route is blocked due to road works, it is also possible to suggest an alternative route to the user. Organizations can update or add to the information any time, and BlindSquare will use the new and updated information instantly. For more information about CLIS, please contact Ilkka Pirttimaa at

The Orientation and Mobility BlindSquare Project
The BlindSquare app is available to Orientation and Mobility Specialists willing to share their skills by providing data about intersections we analyse. The information provided by OMer's will be loaded into the CLOUD and then made available to all BlindSquare Users. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to know how an intersection works before (from the comfort of our homes) or even at the location! All participants in this new collaborative adventure have either their Masters in OM, OM Interns, or Certified as COMS, or NOMC. All participants will receive credit for their efforts.

BlindSquare LinkedIn – Creating a safer and larger world for blind persons daily
BlindSquare combines the desire to travel with trip planning, travel guidance, route simulation, road maps, transit maps, taxi hailing and much more, at the tip of the blind users fingers. This group connects BlindSquare rabid fans with current information and insights.

BlindSquare International Awards News Releases
CNIB 2015 Winston Gordon Award to MIPSoft for excellence in accessible technology in the development of BlindSquare
MIPsoft wins 2015 Access Award from the American Foundation for the Blind, for commitment to innovation and access for all.
BlindSquare wins as best app in the e-Inclusion and Empowerment category at the World Summit Awards (WSA) World Congress 2013 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
BlindSquare, an augmented reality app for the blind, developed by MIPsoft, based in Helsinki, Finland, received the 2013 Global Mobile Award as the Best Mobile Health Product or Service at the 18th Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona.

Slide 4 – Introduction

David Best, Accessibility IT Specialist
Phone: 905-791-1081

Profile: As an IT Specialist and Accessibility Consultant, with more than 30 years of working experience, in software design and development, project management, diversity leadership, and disability advocacy, David is persistent in seeking out accessibility solutions to your business challenges. He is recognized for developing performance-driven strategies that accelerate business growth by unleashing hidden talents and discovering untapped markets. Building a strong and effective Employee Resource Group (ERG) for employees with disabilities, is the key to maximizing productivity. Developing an accessible web site, and communication systems, that is usable by all people, is the key to reaching new markets. Expertise includes comprehensive workshop facilitation and web site analysis.

At the age of 5, David developed glaucoma and lost all of his sight by age 20. Despite this set back, he was one of the first blind Canadians to graduate with a degree in Computer Science, from the University Of Western Ontario (UWO) in 1978. He started his career with Air Canada as a software engineer, and recently retired from IBM so that he can focus more time in supporting organizations with creating accessibility business solutions and workplace best practices. While at IBM David, as an accessibility subject matter expert, worked with the global webmasters team and several large client projects.

David’s life experiences and I/T knowledge skills has given him a unique opportunity to advocate for disabled professionals. In January 2013 he was appointed, by the Ontario Premier, to the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC), under the Ontario ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, to review and update the Accessibility for Ontarians Disability Act (AODA).
He served as the lead for the Ontario JOIN ERG inter-corporate networking council, and served as the vice-chair on the Ontario JOIN Board of Directors ( He is currently on the Advisory Board for A Life Worth Living (, and the Brock University Accessibility Advisory Council (BUAAC).

Slide 5 – Content Overview

BlindSquare is a solution that makes use of the latest features available in smartphones to aid the blind and visually impaired in their daily lives. It has been developed and tested in close cooperation with blind and visually impaired users. BlindSquare is available for iPhone and iPad in the App Store.

Using your iOS-device’s GPS capabilities, BlindSquare determines your location and looks up information about your surrounding on Foursquare and Open Street Map. It then ascertains the information most useful to you and speaks it in a clear, synthetic voice. It can inform you about shops, restaurants, public buildings, and parks in your vicinity. It will also tell you when you approach a street intersection. You can use it to determine the address of your current location, find places of interest near you, get alerted when you reach places, and save your own places in BlindSquare. You can also use BlindSquare in conjunction with other navigation apps such as Navigon, TomTom, the free Google Maps, and the iOS Maps app installed on each iOS-device. These third-party apps can provide spoken turn-by-turn directions, while BlindSquare can inform you about your surrounding and upcoming street intersections.

  1. Global Economic Trends
  2. People Evolution
  3. Technology Evolution
  4. Current Environment Of Society Inclusion
  5. GPS And Digital Guidance
  6. The Impact Of Innovation And Collaboration
  7. Understanding The Inclusion Challenge
  8. The BlindSquare Solution
  9. BlindSquare Innovation
  10. BlindSquare Collaboration
  11. Using BlindSquare

Slide 6 – Global Economic Trends

We are moving toward a global digital economy by seamlessly integrating machines and people:

  1. Machines connected together through a network, provide big data analytics and artificial intelligence, for economic growth, and
  2. People connecting together through a vast network, are closing the gap in cultural differences and levels of education.

Comparing past events and current activities will provide a greater understanding for future global economic trends and changing societal expectations.

Slide 7 – People Evolution

    Shift in attitudes and expecgtations:
  • In the 1960’s we measured people ability by their IQ, intelligence.
  • In the 1970’s the women’s movement promoted EQ, emotional ability to build relationships and value people.
  • In the 1980’s a shrinking world (increased air travel and telecommunications) forced us to think SQ, social ability to understand and accept people of differing values and perspectives.
  • In the 1990’s governments legislated standards and policies for PQ, political correctness in speech and behaviour.
  • In the past decade, we shifted toward Cultural Intelligence (CQ), engaging and interacting with people around the world.
  • This decade may be known as the Digital Intelligence era (DQ), the merging of people and machines.

Slide 8 – Technology Evolution

    Shift in technology tools:
  • In the early part of the last century, tools were largely analog (designed for specific purposes and stationary).
  • In the latter half of the last century, tools were digital (Character based and portable).
  • During the first decade of this century, tools had graphical user interfaces (Communication standards and government legislation opposed).
  • In this decade we see a network of connecting machines (Minaturization, cloud sourcing, and wireless devices).

Slide 9 – Current Environment Of Society Inclusion

    Accessibility and Inclusion:
  • Employment reports show a persistently high unemployment rate for blind Canadians.
  • StatsCan reports 75% blind adults are unemployed and 21% live below the poverty line.
  • Economic growth within Canada is shifting toward entrepreneur and small business ventures.
  • Business analysis reports show a large increase of innovative business start-ups within Ontario.

Slide 10 – GPS And Digital Guidance

Session Discussion:
We are crossing a new frontier in the evolution of computing and entering the era of cognitive systems. scientists and engineers around the world are pushing the boundaries of science and technology to create machines that sense, learn, reason, and interact with people in new ways to provide insight and advice. Business reports estimate that smart wareables will outpace the smartphone and tablet markets in 2015. Ontario is a recognized global leader in wareable innovations, and will attain a market value of more than $6 billion in 2015.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is the first international human rights treaty to place an obligation on States Parties to focus on mechanisms for monitoring (Article 33-2). The 76 ratifying countries represent 72 percent of the world population and 81 percent of the total population of ratifying countries. The CRPD progress report offers a unique benchmarking tool that collects data on country laws, policies, and programs pertaining to accessible and assistive Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) around the globe. Ontario is a recognized global leader in establishing inclusive society standards (AODA).

Slide 11 – The Impact Of Innovation And Collaboration

A paradigm shift in society, driven by miniaturization, cloud sourcing, and wireless mobile devices, is placing greater power in the hands of consumers. However, the ability to use new emerging technologies is currently at the heart of social inclusion, with those excluded being left out of many work, entertainment, communication, healthcare and social benefits. Business reports show that large successful companies (like Nortel and Block Buster) failed in the past decade because of two factors they refer to as System Blindness (Systemic Barriers) and Cultural Arrogance (Attitude Barriers).

  • Collaboration and innovation is the intersection where people and machines connect to achieve progress.
  • Attitude and systemic barriers hinder innovation.
  • Fear and intimidation hinder collaboration.

Slide 12 – The Inclusion Challenge

    Attitude and Systemic Barriers:
  • Technology fatigue in the workplace impact employee decisions and career choices.
  • The business case for disability is based on legal compliance or best practices.
  • Employees with a disability are a business asset or liability.
  • AODA enforcement is a business burden or a growth strategy.
  • The growing acceptance of universal design and accessibility strategies introduce operational challenges or business opportunities.
  • Emerging technologies have marginalized at risk groups due to high costs or ineffective business strategies.
  • Employee resource groups and community involvement has increased collaboration or instability.
  • Expectations based on unreasonable desires or misleading information effects trusting relationships.
  • Employee discontentment and satisfaction effect productivity and workplace health.

Slide 13 – The BlindSquare Solution

BlindSquare is an accessible GPS app designed for the blind and visually impaired, capable of describing the immediate environment and announcing location information, and is currently used in more than 130 countries by more than 10,000 people. BlindSquare integrates social media services like Foursquare data with Apple’s native VoiceOver technology to create a location-based virtual map through sound. When the app is enabled, it reads addresses, street names and surrounding locations aloud, and directions are available on demand. The BlindSquare was conceptualized and created in 2012 by Finland-based Ilkka Pirttimaa, and he calls it a mashup of GPS technology, speech synthesis, crowdsourced data through Foursquare and augmented reality with audio. Over the past 3 years more than 200 enhancements have been implemented. The 20 million+ people on Foursquare have created an incredibly detailed crowdsourced directory. BlindSquare is a new app that’s making use of Foursquare’s 2 billion check-ins worldwide to help blind pedestrians find locations on foot or while using public transportation. The app is available in the Apple iTunes store.

The BlindSquare app is a new solution that combines the latest technology to help the blind with their daily lives. It has been developed in collaboration with blind people and carefully field tested. You need either an iPhone or an iPad to get started. Users can enhance the application with recommended accessories, such as braille displays and the Aftershokz bone conduction head set, which leaves users’ ears open to natural sounds. Any bluetooth-based remote can be used to control the system. BlindSquare supports the following languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Czech, Russian, Estonian, Polish, Arabic, Turkish, Portuguese, Japanese, Greek, Romanian, Croatian, Hungarian, Korean and Bulgarian.

BlindSquare takes advantage of the rapidly growing GeoSpacing data analysis system services. GeoSpacing or GeoFencing is a living evolving hub of information, a convergence of digital and physical worlds. For individuals, this new ability to visualize and understand trends at any location offers a historical and predictive perspective for decision making. Research shows that 74 percent of U.S. smartphone owners use their phones to access location-based information, a number that has doubled in the past year. Mining this data from 18 million foursquare check-ins is being used to redraw neighborhoods in several cities based on check-in patterns. Branding these areas as livehoods, governments are using this information to improve city planning, transportation services and public health surveillance. Private citizens and organizations are encouraged to add information details and build useful apps for government GeoPlatforms. The FourSquare’s new Connected Apps framework helps third parties to add information on top of check-in data. For example, if you check-in at a restaurant, a diet-related app might suggest appropriate meals, while a social app could tell you if any of your friends have eaten there, and if they left any comments. The parallel for the blind community is obvious, and the Blindsquare app is transforming lives through location intelligence.

The blend of new digital signals and the tools to process them create new opportunities for us to rethink the way we approach traditional problems. GeoIntelligent programs can create a new framework for collecting data and shape accessibility strategies in a way that increase confidence and independence. The GeoSpacing concept of the Four Ways Location-Based data model of Foursquare relies on:

  1. Translating signals into value,
  2. Gathering asset intelligence,
  3. Well designed geo-intelligent applications, and
  4. Using place-based thinking to redefine public services.

Of the dozens of apps built using the FourSquare API, two are particularly interesting:

  1. BlindSquare helps blind users navigate unfamiliar areas using check-in data, and
  2. FearSquare, alerts UK users of the number and types of crimes committed at or near their most recent check-in location.

In looking at BlindSquare, how can we benefit from GeoSpacing meta data? We can create new moddels for service delivery, and use the power of crowd-sourcing to create innovative accessibility solutions. For more information on GeoSpacing read the Deloitte paper on Transforming government through location-intelligence (PDF).

Because GPS apps, like BlindSquare, depends on Satellite signals, its reliability inside of buildings is limited. However, BlindSquare iBeacon LandMarkers is an indoor navigation system using Bluetooth signals, which can communicate with modern smartphones. The BlindSquare iBeacon Landmarker project is pioneering indoor navigation strategies. Navigating inside of public buildings (Stations, malls, office buildings) poses different challenges to blind and partially sighted people than travelling in the streets. Outside, visually impaired people often find more landmarks (pavement, tactile paving, different echoes of walls, trees, bushes, fences, audible traffic lights) than are available inside of buildings. Inside office buildings, doors and corridors are similar. In shopping malls, paths are often blocked by signs or decoration, constant background music masks echoes, and other audible clues are lacking. Printed signs are inaccessible to blind individuals. GPS reception generally is too poor to compensate these difficulties using smartphones. The BlindSquare Customized Location Information Service (CLIS), project allows organisations to provide customised information about their premises to blind and partially sighted guests; clients, students, or staff who use an iOS-device running BlindSquare or BlindSq Event. Through a simple online interface, organisations can enter GPS coordinates of points of interest and descriptions of these points. BlindSquare can retrieve this information as soon as it is entered or updated and will read it out to the BlindSquare user. The University of Iowa employs CLIS to notify visually impaired staff and students of entrances of buildings, steps, or temporary construction work, when they approach an entrance or an obstacle. If a familiar route is blocked due to road works, it is also possible to suggest an alternative route to the user. Organisations can update or add to the information any time, and BlindSquare will use the new and updated information instantly. BlindSquare LandMarkers will make CLIS available indoors. Bluetooth beacons will be placed at certain points to provide information or directions. BlindSquare Beacons can be used in three different ways:

  1. Basic Beacon – This type of beacon can be used for static and moving targets (for example busses).
  2. Beacon Pairs – Beacon pairs can help blind and partially sighted individuals not to veer off when navigating wide and open spaces. Beacons are positioned in two parallel lines. They help the user to stay between those two lines when navigating a difficult area.
  3. Beacon Trails – These beacons are similar to Basic Beacons, but they refer to each other. They form trails and can guide the user to a desired destination and function like signposts for sighted people. They provide context sensitive information depending on the direction the user is walking in.

Slide 14 – BlindSquare Innovation

Traditionally computers used a Graphical User Interface with a mouse pointing device for the human interaction.

More recently mobile devices use a Picture Under Glass interface with a touch gesture for the human interaction.

Blindsquare is pioneering accessible GPS navigation on iOS using a haptic interface with a dynamic range of user interactions.

Slide 15 – BlindSquare Collaboration

  • BlindSquare has been developed and tested in close cooperation with blind and visually impaired users.
  • BlindSquare is a solution that takes advantage of the latest smart phone features
  • BlindSquare is pioneering with user interfaces like braille displays and Aftershokz Bluetooth headset.
  • BlindSquare works in conjunction with other navigation apps like Navigon, TomTom, the free Google Maps, and the iOS Maps app installed on the iOS-device.
  • BlindSquare integrates travel services like UBER and Transit iOS apps.
  • BlindSquare is extending the reach of the white cane with iBeacon technology guidance.
  • BlindSquare is providing innovative techniques for orientation and mobility instruction.

Slide 16 – Using BlindSquare

Knowledge is power, and BlindSquare is shifting power into the hands of the blind community.

BlindSquare demonstration and discussion.