Blind Users Test New GPS Mapping Technology
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 18, 2005
ROCHESTER, MICHIGAN--Al Paganelli and Gail Selfridge quietly made history last week.
They became the first people in the country to be trained in Trekker, a new GPS (Global Positioning System) device designed to help blind users find their way around.
Trekker acts much like the OnStar system in automobiles, giving the user's exact location at any given moment. It also can give the user directions to the nearest "points of interest", such as restaurants, banks, supermarkets, and so forth.
Users can carry the lightweight device, which resembles a calculator or PDA (personal digital assistant), or hang it from an over-the-shoulder strap. The user operates Trekker by talking into a discrete microphone, then listening on a small speaker that can be clipped to a shirt collar. The unit can be programmed to give the wearer specific instructions to follow a particular route.
"With GPS and Trekker, I'm not likely to get lost," Paganelli, of Las Vegas, Nevada, told the Oakland Press. "Usually a blind person takes a job within walking distance of their home, but with this technology, I can work and go anywhere."
"This completely revolutionizes the way blind people navigate."
Paganelli and Selfridge, who lives in Denver, Colorado, underwent the first five-day training course held by Leader Dogs for the Blind, in Rochester.
"This is the talking version of a map," Selfridge said of Trekker, which carries a $1,640 price tag.
"This is going to change my life radically," she said.
The Trekker device will be used in conjunction with Paganelli's guide dog, Trouble, and Selfridge's dog, Maggie. The manufacturer and Leader Dogs insist that the device will never replace guide dogs that are trained to recognize dangers such as low-hanging branches and cracks in sidewalks.
"Device keeps the blind on track" (Daily Tribune)
"GPS device gives the blind new freedom to explore" (Oakland Press)
Trekker 2.6 (HumanWare)