Join me at the AEBC 2016 Building Bridges Conference

Speaker Presentation

Conference Presentation Information

AEBC AGM 2016 Conference – Building Bridges is taking place in Montreal, Quebec, at the Best Western Montreal Downtown Hotel Europa, from Friday, April 29th to Sunday, May 1st, 2016.

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) is a national grassroots, peer support organization that comprises Canadians who are blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted and our supporters from the public at large. We work to ensure we have a voice on all matters affecting our participation in Canada’s mainstream society.

Speaker presentation – David Best, Knowledge Is Power (Shifting the Digital Mindset – Are those without sight out of sight?) – Saturday, April 30, 1:30PM to 2:30PM.

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. 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.


  1. To gain a greater understanding of the communication needs for blind persons in a highly mobile and digital world.
  2. To gain a greater appreciation of the talents and abilities of blind persons.
  3. To inspire and motivate individuals living with vision loss.
  4. To become an active advocate in bridging the communication divide, by getting emerging technologies into the hands of blind persons.


Business and Educational Services in Technology (BEST Accessibility Consulting)
Helping organizations to increase productivity and market growth through innovation and collaboration.
Phone: (416) 258-5894
BEST Accessibility
Personal profile

Important Participant Information

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.

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.

Global 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.

People Trends

  • 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 decayed, we shifted toward Cultural Intelligence (CQ), engaging and interacting with people around the world.
  • This decayed may be known as the Digital Intelligence era (DQ), the merging of people and machines.

Technology Trends

  • In the 1970’s disabled people were beginning to use GPS, OCR, voice recognition, and internet technologies.
  • In the latter half of the 1900’s assistive technologies were stand alone devices.
  • In the latter half of the 1900’s digital communications was primarily character based.
  • In the past decayed Graphicl User Interfaces (GUI) were increasingly in use, creating new barriers for disabled people.
  • In the past decayed assistive technology support began appearing in mainstream products.
  • We now see a movement toward minaturization, cloud sourcing, and wireless devices.
  • We now see an increasing network of connecting machines.

The Life Changing Power Of Digital Technologies

Current State Of Technology

Business analysis reports show that, over the past decade, large successful companies (like Nortel, Blockbuster, BlackBerry, and now Volkswagon) have failed due to conditions they call Cultural Arrogance and System Blindness. This has resulted in greater workplace mental health issues, reducing productivity due to absenteeism, presenteeism, and turnover. Since economic growth within Canada is shifting toward entrepreneur and small business ventures, we need to focus on innovation strategies that support small business and reduce workplace stress. Since inaccessible products and services restrict market growth, and limit career training opportunities, we need to focus on greater collaboration strategies and inclusion best practices.

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. 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 about 80 percent of smartphone owners use their phones to access location-based information. Mining this data from more than 20 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 parallel for the blind community is obvious, and the Blindsquare app is transforming lives through location intelligence. BlindSquare takes advantage of the rapidly growing GeoSpacing data analysis system services, and is pioneering accessible GPS navigation on iOS using a haptic interface with a dynamic range of user interactions.

The Power Of Digital Communications

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a web of interconnected sensor networks that automatically communicate data to people and computers in the Cloud. Each node on the network consists of a tiny smart device with built-in sensors and circuitry for monitoring, communicating and controlling just about any physical object. The IOT is the ability to communicate data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. IoT has evolved from the convergence of wireless technologies, micro-electromechanical systems and the Internet. New and remarkable technologies are just around the corner. Everyday objects using network connectivity to send and receive data, while collecting and storing that information electronically, is becoming an important component in our everyday lives. The ability for IOT objects to collect and exchange data is creating opportunities for more direct integration between the physical world and computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit. Thus, the internet of things creates an opportunity to measure, collect and analyse an ever-increasing variety of behavioural statistics. Cross-correlation of this data will revolutionise the targeted marketing of products and services, but IoT devices must also exhibit interoperability, security controls, configuration management capabilities and even a degree of artificial intelligence.

The vision of the Internet Of Things has evolved due to a convergence of multiple technologies, ranging from wireless communication to the Internet and from embedded systems to micro-electromechanical systems That is transforming society and opening up a new era of economic growth and competitiveness. We are surrounded by tiny, intelligent devices that capture data about how we live and what we do. Now they are beginning to talk to one another. Soon we will be able to choreograph them to respond to our needs, solve our problems, even save our lives. The connectivity of devices, systems, and services goes beyond machine-to-machine communications, but gives people greater power to control their environment and make important decisions. This is refered to as smart wearables, smart homes, smart cities, smart environments, and smart enterprises. The designable environment is a playground for coders and engineers.

It is estimated that more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet of Things by 2020. IOT is changing the whole way we think about the division between the virtual and the physical, and the Programmable World is automating activities we normally do by hand and putting intelligence from the cloud into everything we touch. Currently, over a billion people including children (or about 15% of the world’s population) are estimated to be living with disability. The lack of support services can make disabled people overly dependent on their families, which prevents them from being economically active and socially included. The Internet of Things can offer people with disabilities the assistance and support they need to achieve a good quality of life and allows them to participate in the social and economic life. One of the first and most obvious ways for IoT to impact the disabled is to extend their reach. In all likelihood, the easiest way to do this with connected devices is to enable their control via a mobile app. This would allow people with physical limitations that otherwise prevent them from direct interaction with certain things or objects in their typical locations the ability to interact with and control them through their mobile phones or other devices. People with mobility issues often have a great deal of trouble doing everyday things from turning on a light switch to getting that can from the top shelf in the pantry. However one can equip a light switch to turn on or off remotely. A door could be fitted with a device that can open it at a tap on a smart phone. Mechanical arms or other devices can take things that are out of reach and bring them down to the level of someone who is wheelchair bound.

Taking Charge Of Our Destiny

The priorities of the Canada’s Economic Action Plan over the past several years, have been to create well-paying and secure jobs for Canadians, lower taxes for Canadian families and businesses, and balance the budget. However, the persistent high unemployment rate for Canadians living with vision loss has not changed despite federal government promises for greater employment supports. Canada’s Economic Action Plan is not working to improve the lives of blind Canadians. The provinbcial Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities (LMAPDs) and the Opportunities Fund programs, appear to have more barriers and benefits for persons living with vision loss. The government funding appears to benefit the service organizations more than disabled individuals, as the integration of persons with disabilities into the labour market has not improved.

The Real Change, Liberal Party of Canada, Plan does not identify any specific commitment to Canadians living with a disability. Acknowledgement of human rights and inequality issues is a good start, but no different from previous governments. Real Change requires action with accountability and collaboration.
The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, mandate:

You are expected to do your part to fulfill our government’s commitment to transparent, merit-based appointments, to help ensure gender parity and that Indigenous Canadians and minority groups are better reflected in positions of leadership.
Where is the mandate to improve the quality of life for disabled Canadians? Despite the fact that 1 out of 7 Canadians live with a disability and 1 out of 3 families are impacted; And more than 80% of Canadian adults living with vision loss are unemployed, with more than 20% living below the poverty line; the mandate letter ignores the employment issues of the most vonerable sector. To lead an engagement process to establish the passage of a Canadians with Disabilities Act, will require a broader collaboration effort than just the Ministery of Families, Children and Social Development. There is a critical missing link and a huge gap in the Real Change strategic plan.

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

I expect Canadians to hold us accountable for delivering these commitments, and I expect all ministers to do their part (individually and collectively) to improve economic opportunity and security for Canadians.

Canad is a global leader of innovation, but has failed to exploit the power of technology to improve productivity and the inclusion of disabled Canadians. Real Change means taking corrective actions to remove inequalities, based on knowledgeable information. We can avoid the U.S. experience of increasing lawsuits, by creating a positive environment of collaboration. The Ministries of Innovations, Employment, Infrastructure, and Persons With Disabilities, must have an integrated economic growth strategy that reflects the digital communication needs of persons with vision loss. The AEBC must partner with the business community and innovators, so as to take control of our destiny in a digital world. Let’s hold Justin Trudeau to his word!

What Is BlindSquare

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. BlindSquare, an accessible GPS app, is capable of describing the immediate environment and announcing location information, and is currently used in more than 130 countries by more than 15,000 people, in about 25 different languages. BlindSquare integrates social media services like FourSquare data with Apple’s native VoiceOver technology to create a location-based virtual map through sound. 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. 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.

  • has been developed and tested in close cooperation with blind and visually impaired users.
  • is a solution that takes advantage of the latest smart phone features.
  • is pioneering with user interfaces like braille displays and Aftershokz Bluetooth headset.
  • works in conjunction with other navigation apps like Navigon, TomTom, the free Google Maps, and the iOS Maps app installed on the iOS-device.
  • integrates travel services like UBER and Transit iOS apps.
  • is extending the reach of the white cane with iBeacon and QR code technology guidance.
  • is providing innovative techniques for orientation and mobility instruction.
  • Eyes On Success – Podcast1544 BlindSquare Navigation App

BlindSquare Video Demonstrations

Getting Started With BlindSquare

  1. Load the BlindSquare app on your iOS device. Note, if you are using the free BlindSqEvent app, load it on your iOS device and then select the event you are attending in the demonstration mode. This will give you full access to all BlindSquare iOS features while within 1 KM of the specified event.
  2. Once loaded, BlindSquare will immediately start talking by giving you your current location information. To control the amount of information output, adjust the Filter setting and the Radius setting that can be found on the main BlindSquare screen.
  3. From the top of the main BlindSquare app screen, swipe right with a single finger until you hear the “Filter Announcement” item, and then double tap with a single finger. At the top of the “Filter Announcement” screen is a Picker item for you to specify the type of information: All information, Streets only, My places, Streets and my places, Places only, and None. If you want general information select All. If you are looking for a specific street then select Streets only. If you are in an area where you have specifically mapped out certain GPS coordinates, then you may want to select My places only. Note, when you are indoors tracking BlindSquare iBeacon messages, it may be helpful to select None so as to elliminate outdoor points of reference. Also, on this screen is the ability to select specific categories for announcement. Turn these items on or off as desired. For example, if you are looking for restaurants in the area, turn all categories off and turn on only the Food category. If you are on a college or university campus turn on only the “College and university” category. If you are looking for some excitement try turning on only the “Night life spot” category.
  4. From the top of the main BlindSquare app screen, swipe right with a single finger until you hear the “Search places within radius” item. This is a Picker item for you to specify the Radius distance from your location to announce information. If you are walking down the street you may want to reduce the Radius to hear only points of interest nearby. If you are the navigator in a car with a sighted driver, you may want to increase the Radius so as to know in advance what points of interest are coming up. Note, if you are indoors tracking BlindSquare iBeacons you may want to reduce the Radius to the minimum so as to elliminate outdoor points of interest.
  5. To learn more about BlindSquare settings, swipe right with a single finger, from the top of the main BlindSquare app screen until you hear the “Other” button, and double tap with a single finger to open the screen menu. At the top of this screen you will find the “Setting” button, which you can double tap with a single finger to open. On the Settings screen you will find several settings for customizing the user experience:
    • Help hints. This is helpful for new BlindSquare users.
    • Track destination automatically. When turned on, BlindSquare will intermittently let you know how close you are getting to your destination.
    • Shake gesture settings. The ability to shake the iPhone to activate specific actions.
    • The Audio Menu settings. This allows the user to control BlindSquare operations from a bluetooth device, like the Trekz Titanium bone conduction headset. This allows the user to place the iPhone in their pocket or backpack.
    • Intersection announcement. When walking you may want a short distance notice, and when driving you will need a longer distance announcement notice of the upcoming street intersection.
    • Automatic sleep time. The ability to control the BlindSquare on and off mode.
    • Distance. This allows the user to specify the measurement unit of choice, like metres and feet or miles and kilometres.
    • Direction style. The user can specify direction instructions. Such as the clock face or the compass direction.
    • Select voice and language. BlindSquare currently handles 25 languages and several text to speech voices.
    • Speech rate. Allows the user to adjust the speech output rate for their comfort level.
    • Volume. Allows the user to adjust the default BlindSquare volume setting. This is separate from the VoiceOver volume setting.
    • BlindSquare sounds. For each BlindSquare notification and action there is an unique tone.
    • Delete unused voices.
    • Blue tooth settings.
    • Help. Access to the user guide.
  6. For more support information join the BlindSquare LinkedIn group: BlindSquare – iOS app, creating a safer and larger world for blind persons daily.

BlindSquare Accessories

Aftershokz Bone Conduction Headset
BlindSquare KeyFob Controller

Since the release of BlindSquare version 2.0, we have had the ability to control BlindSquare from the wired Apple Earbud controls, or the AfterShokz headset. We now have a solution using the keyfob. The device easily fits in your hand or pocket, to allow use with BlindSquare while your iPhone is nestled in a shirt or pants pocket. The KeyFob will interoperate with AfterShokz or other wired or Bluetooth headphones.

  • Small
  • Light
  • Rechargeable via usb
  • Has a nylon tether with a KeyRing (so you can easily run a finger through it while using to prevent accidental dropping)
  • On/off slider
  • Play/Pause
  • Forward/back
  • Volume up/down
  • Central button, currently not used, acts as a shutter release for the camera.
  1. Contents. Device, small tether cord with ring, USB charging cable, printed instructions.
  2. Hold device with buttons up, round button away from you.
  3. Top edge left, slider for power, left ON, right OFF.
  4. Top edge right, USB charging port.
  5. TOP. Large circular button.
  6. Below, at 5:00 pinhole, with power light.
  7. Below, at 6:00 half-moon shaped rocker button (curve on top). Right side, volume up, left side, volume down.
  8. Below, at 6:00 rectangular button. Left, press for previous track, press and hold for rewind. Right, press for next track, press and hold for fast-forward.
  9. Below, at 6:00, half-moon button (curve on bottom), simple press for play/pause toggle.
  10. Below, at 6:00, bottom of device with slot for nylon tether cord.
  11. Pairing. Press large circular button and lower half-moon button together to enable pairing.
  12. Caution. Make sure unit is charged (2 hrs recommended, although there is an initial charge) and ON before pairing. Thereafter switching unit on/off immediately connects.