A boost to the senses

New beacons along Bourke and Swanston streets will use audio and messaging technology to help people with low vision or blindness navigate the city.

Chair of the people city portfolio Cr Beverley Pinder said the City of Melbourne had commissioned Guide Dogs Victoria to develop the program, which uses a phone app to provide information about intersections, construction and public transport.

“Accessibility is an important part of everything we do at the City of Melbourne, including helping people find their way around our city,” Cr Pinder said.

“Melbourne is growing and as our city changes it’s vital that we support people living with low vision, blindness or other disabilities to remain confident and independent getting around.”

“We’re embracing new ways of communicating with residents and visitors to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to experience everything our wonderful city has to offer.”

The beacons use an existing phone app, BlindSquare, to provide detailed audio messages with information that is not available through other map-based tools such as Google Maps.

This includes the location of obstacles, such as bollards, and information about construction works in the area.

New virtual GPS beacons have been created at intersections along Bourke and Swanston streets and sections of Flinders Lane and Degraves St.

The technology also uses new physical beacons, installed in prominent locations including Ross House, Melbourne Town Hall, Melbourne Visitor Hub, City Library and the Degraves St underpass. 

The technology uses GPS and Bluetooth in the user’s phone to access audio messages from nearby beacons. It is designed to be used as an additional tool to complement other mobility aids such as a cane or guide dog.

The technology has been successfully implemented at all city loop train stations and the District Docklands shopping centre.

It’s available in 25 different languages.

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