While many students with visual limitations at The Georgie Institute of Technology sometimes feel restricted to planned events on campus, a new app will now allow Yellow Jackets with low vision a high-tech option for free visual aid.
Aira is a mobile service using smartphones and wearables to get verbal and on-demand descriptions of one’s surroundings. In addition, Aira offers an augmented reality resource that can help increase mobility and independence for blind and visually impaired people.
As part of the Aira Geofence, the university provides anyone on the Georgia Tech campus access to remotely located agents who can provide real-time visual information about the person’s surroundings.
The service is available 24/7/365 through the Aira app, and Aira’s agents provide ‘Wayfinding’ and ‘Social Distancing’ assistance.
Dr. James Logan, manager of quality assurance at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said offering this technology free of charge to any person on campus is one more way Georgia Tech is working to provide a fully accessible campus to anyone, whether they are working, studying, or just visiting the university.
“This technology is critical in certain parts of our campus, like those under construction, areas closed off by barriers or traffic cones due to special events or sidewalks and ramps obstructed by ride-sharing scooters and other objects,” says Dr. Logan.
With Aira, those who are blind or visually impaired can access information like campus digital signs and presentation slides. Aira users on the Georgia Tech campus can safely explore outdoor spaces and independently locate buildings’ elevators, doors, and stairs.
Aira agents can help users find objects needed for work or study or identify other people they meet. They also can provide users with the technical support required to operate digital screens, computers, and other Information Communications Technology (ICT).
“Providing this service helps bring our campus to compliance regarding regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires all areas of the campus be accessible and usable by individuals with disabilities,” says Dr. Logan.” In addition, it demonstrates a commitment to creating a fully inclusive environment for anyone who steps onto the Georgia Tech campus.”
The Aira app is offered through an access agreement with Georgia Tech
Those using Aira also can navigate the on-campus public transportation options provided by Parking and Transportation Services or use the app to connect to Uber and Lyft ride-sharing services, which allows agents to assist with scheduling rides and identifying the vehicle when it arrives.
As the quality assurance manager at Georgia Tech, Dr. Logan has partnered with the Georgia Institute of Technology Director of Emergency Preparedness and Office of Information Security to create, test, and deploy secure Continuity of Operations Plans for departments that maintain sensitive information within the institute’s community.
The Aira app is offered through an access agreement with Georgia Tech’s Office of Information Technology, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Office of Disability Services, Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation, Capital Planning & Space Management, and Institute Communications.
To use the service, a person contacts an agent using a free smartphone app available in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store or through a pair of Envision Glasses. Aira lets agents see the user’s surroundings via the camera on their phone or glasses. Then, the agent describes these surroundings to the user, allowing them to accomplish various tasks.