Nearby Explorer: an app to help blind travelersI recently read an article in the Miami Herald titled “Blind travelers can get around an airport more easily with new app.” It’s an interesting read, and it makes the convincing case that Nearby Explorer is a helpful app with some serious potential to help blind travelers. From the story:

“Using Bluetooth technology, the free ‘Indoor Explorer’ function of the existing Nearby Explorer app transforms a smartphone into an audio guide that can tell users exactly where they are in the airport and guide them — turn by turn, step by step — to gates, ticket counters, baggage claims or the nearest Starbucks. Besides operating with the ease of a smartphone, the app provides much more interactive data about the environment inside the airport building.”

The app was developed by the American Printing House for the Blind and “has been in road-testing since October at Louisville International Airport. But the app’s developers hope to see it replicated elsewhere so that visually impaired travelers can navigate an airport with a more detailed idea of what’s around them, and without having to rely on airport personnel, inadequate signage or the kindness of strangers.

“The American Printing House for the Blind’s new wayfinding tool uses data from the OpenStreetMap database and more than 140 beacons placed inside the airport terminal to orient the app’s user. The beacons interact with the phone, which gives audible information about the person’s location, along with points of interest. The app also allows a person to use GeoBeam or Compass to point to locations inside the building.”

Currently, the app is only available for iOS and can be found by searching “Nearby Explorer” in the App Store. There are two versions; one is for free and the other is a whopping $79.99. I’m not clear which version offers the Indoor Explorer feature. If it’s the paid version, I hope insurance will cover it.


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