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Mobile Apps for Blind Travelers

National Braille Press Book Helps iOS Users Explore & enlarge Their World

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One barrier blind people face in leading independent lives is the ability to travel safely and with confidence.

The iPhone, with its built-in camera, VoiceOver screen reader, and support of GPS navigation apps, is becoming an essential tool for those who want mobility without having to rely on others.

The following free travel apps are profiled in Twenty-One Apps We Can't Live Without, a new guide by Judy Dixon and Doug Wakefield published by National Braille Press.

This is NBP's fourth book on iOS technology. The iPhone Tactile Screenshot Quick Reference Guide appeared in January 2012.

1. Ariadne GPS

Giovanni Ciaffoni

Ariadne GPS uses VoiceOver to create a talking map that tells users street names and addresses. The app is designed to enable users to explore all that's around them.

The app centers a user's current location on their device screen, the top half of which displays what's directly in front of you; the bottom half, what's directly behind.

Users place a finger on the screen to hear information about that street. You can also tell the app what street (or city) you'd like to explore.

Other functions include "Monitor," which provides periodic updates on your location and the ability to add favorites to the app to be alerted when in proximity.

Named for the Greek goddess of labyrinths, Ariadne can usually get you within 50 feet of your destination.

2. AroundMe

Attorno A Me S.R.L.

AroundMe tells you what's located nearby, including banks, bars, restaurants, supermarkets, taxis, and theaters.

Double-click on a category to hear a list that includes addresses and how far each place is from you. You can also search for specific businesses or double-tap "Nearby" to get a list of all establishments close to you with information drawn from Wikipedia.

Though the app requires a GPS receiver to fix your location, it does not provide walking directions.

NOTE: AroundMe cannot fix positions for iPod touch users, as that device lacks a built-in GPS.

3. GateGuru

GateGuru, Inc.

GateGuru provides real-time information on flight status, including change notifications, and enables blind travelers to access airport amenities.

The app enables users to track flights, check airport security wait times, and view TripIt and KAYAK itineraries.

The comprehensive amenities listing, which covers 125 global airports, has reviews, ratings, photos, and tips for finding the best food, shops, and services.

Frequent fliers can also bookmark airports and amenities for quick access.

Blind travelers can use GateGuru pre-flight to make layovers less stressful and to easily locate the services they need.

4. My Eyes Only Lite

Software Ops LLC

My Eyes Only (MEO) is a password-protected information manager that works with VoiceOver.

The app gives iOS users a secure place to store and easily access personal data such as financial account logins, credit and debit card numbers, and passwords and numbers one might need while traveling.

The app encrypts information it sores in a secure cloud. It's designed for quick data entry (including bluetooth keyboard support) into 14 built-in categories.

Users create a password and provide a hint and then start adding information under the "Category" tab. Categories include: Logins, Credit Cards, Financial Accounts, Identity Cards, Memberships, Notes and Others. Users can also add custom categories.

5. Taxi Magic

RideCharge, Inc.

The Taxi Magic app enables users to schedule and pay for cab rides in over 40 US cities and thousands more throughout North America.

Blind users can establish their account and payment method via computer. They can also specify a default pickup location, e.g. their home. Users can specify a cab company in areas where more than one is available.

The app alerts you once a cab is dispatched, tells you how far away it is, and provides updates each minute until it arrives. Users can easily manage expensive accounts via electronic receipts, though a $1.50 documentation charge applies.

Cities covered include: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Orlando, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, St. Louis, Seattle, and Washington DC.

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