We were not familiar with the difficulties that people with disabilities face in their everyday lives. Nor did we have any knowledge of what their real needs are. Our interactions with Xian and Gus transformed our understanding of the need of the population with disabilities. While existing technologies have tremendously reduced the difficulties they are facing, there is still a lot of room for improvements.
Today, we rely on our smartphones when we travel: we use it as GPS, and search restaurants and landmarks. However, for people with disability, it is difficult to fully utilize their smartphones when they travel. Often, their hands are occupied, and they have to focus on basic navigation. Moreover, visually impaired people can often miss interesting places that are just right next to us.
Therefore, we have developed this app called Nearby, a handsfree virtual tour guide. For those whose hands are occupied, Nearby will search places interesting places for you, and for visually impaired people, Nearby will be their eyes telling them what is interesting around.
We hope that Nearby:
- enables people with disabilities to have better access to location information when they travel.
- makes people with disabilities more independent, and fully enjoy their traveling experience without others' assistance.
How it works
- Pick places that you are interested in like restaurants, stores, or landmarks.
- Then pick how often do you want Nearby to tell you about.
- Put it in your pocket and enjoy your trip ! :D
Challenges I ran into
Understanding the needs of people with disabilities was very difficult. Listening to first-hand experience from targeted users tremendously helped us to correct our direction and refinement of our ideas.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
We have successfully integrated APIs and frameworks from various developers in an accessible way that is useful for the disabled and the able-bodied alike.
What I learned
The most valuable assets we have is the opportunity to hear from the people with disabilities about their stories. The stories we have heard reshaped my understanding of this community and enabled us to serve them with technologies that better meet their needs.
What's next for Nearby
Due to the limited time, we had to focus on the main feature of the program. We believe that there are so many other features that can be added to Nearby which will tremendously improve user experiences. Future directions: 1) Directional guide for recommended places 2) More personalized recommendation system 3) More information about the recommended places (price, rating, hours etc)