Here at Arc we are doing the impossible: Seeing through the eyes of the blind. There are some amazing opportunities that are opening up to students with disabilities here on campus!
Meet Robin, a very special student here at ARC. She is one of the first students on campus to be a part of a very new technology that was introduced this semester: smart glasses for the blind. At first, it may sound like an oxymoron. But these glasses are a tool that will revolutionize campus accessibility for those who are visually impaired.
We met in the cafeteria Starbucks to sit down and chat about how the technology and the program worked, and how it helps her in so many different ways. “What time is it? Oh my gosh! I actually got here on time!!” Robin says as she takes the seat next to me. She continues to tell me that these glasses have made getting places so much smoother. Then, to answer the first question we all want answers to, Robin dives right in to how these glasses work, and what exactly they do.
They are called “smart glasses”. Basically, they are a set of glasses that have a camera attached. This camera links up to a device called my-fi, and is also linked to an app on a smartphone. This is where things get interesting: This setup was created by a company called Aira, which has a team of agents who are readily available to assist anyone who presses their my-fi device. “They are seeing what you’re seeing when the glasses are on, and the device is connected. You call them, and they can see what’s around you. You can hold something up to the glasses and they can read that back to you. It’s really a neat device.”
Robin wears this device to all of her classes. She says it definitely makes things easier, going from point A to point B. “I haven’t had any mobility training prior to attending ARC. And now, I’m more interested in getting places when I am talking to these agents. They help me navigate and then I can remember routes on campus that I can eventually take on my own.”
Navigation isn’t the only thing that Aira can assist with, either. These agents can also help with reading things like menus at restaurants, road signs, and even things in class like white boards and rubrics. “The other day I had an Aira agent read me the directions on a pack of fish filets. I got to hear the nutrition facts and the serving size.”
Closing out our interview with Robin, we talked about how important it is to have services like this available to students who are visually impaired. These glasses can help students navigate campus safely and with confidence. We are beginning to see some positive ripple effects from the Design Hub. This is only one of the many projects being spearheaded by the Hub, and we couldn’t be more grateful to be able to help and represent the students of ARC!