By: Martin Courcelles, Specialist, Web Accessibility and Adaptive Technology
In my last blog entry, I spoke of CNIB's Night Steps and my endeavor in making it as accessible as possible. I'm glad to report that it was a success. Here now is my experience and overview of the 2 devices that I utilized in order to complete the course independently.
The first event was held in Lakeside Park in Mississauga. Due to the kind generosity of Humanware, I had 5 Trekker Breezes, (6 including mine), pre-programmed with the walking course. Essentially, I had come to the park with a work colleague 3 weeks earlier in order to create a route on the device. I then shared it amongst all the devices. We handed out a few of them out to participants in order to give them the experience of a talking GPS. Before embarking on their journey, I started the route on the participant's device, showed them the basic functionality and sent them on their way.
I must admit, in the 3 years owning the Trekker Breeze, I had never recorded a route, nor had I ever used one. So, off I went and, to my surprise, the device outdid itself in detail and accuracy. Every 15 to 20 meters, it would give me a message stating whether I was still on route and also the distance to the next update. It also stated all of the landmarks that I had programmed into the route. I even became confident enough to run the whole course.
The Toronto Night Steps was held in Coronation Park, just beside the CNE. We had many disguised people, including an abnormal amount of zombie-like folk. At any rate, I decided to utilize the other tool I had prepared for the event, the iPhone app, MyWay Classic. Set up in a similar fashion as the Trekker Breeze, I was able to track virtual breadcrumbs I had left previously in a route I had programmed. The difference in this method was that I could point the iPhone towards the waypoints and it would vibrate when it was pointing in the correct direction. The app also guided me by voice to each waypoint. Again, the information was good enough for me to run the course. I did get confused in one occasion as the iPhone did not register a waypoint, but I figured it out in the end. Oh, and how did I run independently you might ask? Well, I give the credit to my dog guide Laton. He was an amazing sport through it all. He was still raring to go on Sunday.
So, all in all, this was a great experience. In 2 days, I managed to accomplish 2 things:
I proved that accessibility could be applied to an event such as this one,
I was able to attain my personal goal of independently completing a 5 KM run, twice.
CNIB has been part of my life since I was a child. I approached them from time to time for various services when I needed them.
No matter the task I needed help with, an overlying philosophy has prevailed throughout. That is the idea of independence. There is no other concept like independence that can boost self-confidence within an individual. Even today, I am still walking on a cloud because of what I achieved at Night Steps.
Perhaps, next year, I will see you there as a participant as well. I won't expect you to run the course however. :)
For further proof of what CNIB has done for other individuals, why not listen to the following brief interviews: