By David Brun
Director, Gateway Navigation CCC Ltd.
Public Services and Procurement Canada’s Office of Small Medium Enterprises assists entrepreneurs and business owners in understanding how to sell to the Government of Canada
Collaborating with the Canadian Council of the Blind and Gateway Navigation CCC Ltd. in creating accessible and inclusive indoor wayfinding solutions using audio-based navigation – ABN networks.
“You are in front of the Public Services and Procurement Canada – PSPC Booth. There are two people working at the booth. There are three people in front of you. Move slightly to your right. A male working at the booth is looking at you and smiling.” This description was provided through a subscription service called Aira. It is an app that connects blind users with an Aira representative via the user’s smartphone camera. The representative also has access to the smartphone tracking and positioning data. Assisting the user in navigation and interaction with their surroundings.
I was the guinea pig for a recent test of Aira at a Doing Business with Government exhibition hosted by Public Services and Procurement Canada at the Anvil Centre in New Westminster. PSPC purchased a block of time from Aira and had a geo-fence setup providing blind or visually-impaired attendees free access to the app, which included the New Westminster SkyTrain Station across the street.
There were challenges finding our way out of the SkyTrain Station. But once in route I was guided to the street crossing and then the entrance to the Anvil Centre. But the real power of the app was in guiding me through the exhibit area and interaction information with the people and environment around me. The experience to me was equal to when I had sight. It allowed me to be more efficient, independent and engaged with exhibitors and other participants. Fundamental requirements when trying to network.
Creating accessible and inclusive experiences for Canadians who are blind, deaf-blind or visually-impaired is fundamental to equal access of opportunity. As part of this ongoing assessment of how to provide equal access to the buying and selling of goods and services to the Government of Canada, Public Services and Procurement Canada and its Office of Small and Medium Enterprises in British Columbia are piloting the Aira app at their office locations in Vancouver and Victoria:
To access the Aira Free Zones including the above locations the app must be downloaded to your smartphone and an account profile activated. No purchase of plan is required. Once within a geo-fenced Aira free zone the app will provide the user with the option to connect to an agent. Connecting to an agent usually is less than two minutes.
The staff at OSME will be pleased to meet with you and discuss how their services can assist you in doing business with the Government of Canada and to get your feedback on using Aira. Scheduling an appointment is recommended, but not required.
For more information Contact:
Public Services and Procurement Canada
John Johnstone – email: John.Johnstone@pwgsc-tpsgc.gc.ca
Tess Menges – email: Tess.Menges@pwgsc-tpsgc.gc.ca
Tara Hartley – email: Tara.Hartley@pwgsc-tpsgc.gc.ca
Canadian Council of the Blind / Aira and other assistive technology for the blind
Albert Ruel – email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gateway Navigation CCC Ltd / Audio-based navigation - ABN Consulting
Jim Taggart – email: email@example.com
David Brun - email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Above Image: Geometric graphic with lines and angles. Text reads: BX Buildex Vancouver. Join me at #BUILDEXVancouver February 13 & 14, 2019. Vancouver Convention Centre West.
Enhancing Accessibility One Building at a Time Seminar - Buildex Vancouver February 14 @2:00 PMWhat is Buildex?BUILDEX is the voice of the building industry today, and the vision of its future. This exciting event – the largest in Western Canada – brings together talent from across industry to interact, learn and discover the newest innovations of a market in constant transformation.
BUILDEX Vancouver is an event that enables Architecture & Design, Construction, and Property Management professionals to immerse themselves in dialogue and build community, providing a meaningful platform for industry advancement.
Jim Taggart FRAIC, Editor, SABMag; Director, Gateway NavigationBIO: https://www.gnc3.com/jim-taggart-advisor-architectural-inclusive-design.html
Albert A. Ruel, Canadian Council of the Blind, Coordinator, Get Together with Technology Program; Advisor, Gateway Navigation;BIO: https://www.gnc3.com/albert-ruel-advisor-assistive-technology-ccb-gtt.html
David Brun, Founder & Director, Gateway NavigationBIO: https://www.gnc3.com/david-brun-advisor-business-finance-social-enterprise.html
A decade after the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the proposed 'Accessible Canada Act (Bill C-81) had its first reading in the House of Commons in June 2018. Bill C-81 marks a paradigm shift in our understanding of, and attitude towards disability. No longer do we view disability as a medical condition, or a circumstance to be alleviated through acts of charity or welfare programs, rather it is now seen as a social phenomenon that results from the interaction of a person with an environment that, through its design, denies that person the opportunity of full participation in society.
However, technology is emerging that will give low and no vision building users access to site specific information for interior navigation using their smart phone. Unlike GPS for which the satellite infrastructure had been previously developed by various space agencies and national governments, interior navigation networks must be developed one building at a time, using either low energy beacons or wireless 'fingerprinting.'
This presentation will provide an overview of the current state of this technology and the protocols being developed to ensure a seamless interface and consistent experience for users, whatever building they may be trying to access anywhere in Canada. Authorities having jurisdiction, building owners and designers will learn what role they can play in advancing this technology and hence improving accessibility in their buildings. Attendees will have the opportunity to try the technology for themselves.
Seminar Information:Seminar Name / Codes:
T40 – Enhancing Accessibility One Building at a Time
[Building Performance, Culture & Community, Health & Wellness, Leadership & Business Improvement, Project Management & Process Improvement]
[ AIBC 1.5 Core LU • BOMI 1.5 CPDs • 1.5 HSW-Barrier Free Hours IDCEC Approved ]
Location: VANCOUVER CONVENTION CENTRE WEST
Date: Thursday, February 14, 2019
Time: 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Cost: Buildex fee to attend seminar $60.00 – register and payment via Buildex Vancouver webpage: https://www.buildexvancouver.com/en/home.html. Limited number of free passes are available: contact email@example.com to enquire on availability.
For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Gateway Navigation CCC Limited is a social enterprise conceived and created in partnership with the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) that is dedicated to improving the accessibility and inclusivity of interior spaces for members of the blind and visually impaired community in Canada. As such it directs its efforts (and 60% of its profits) toward this social purpose, while operating under an innovative and sustainable business model.
Gateway also aims to provide employment to a sector of the community that is often overlooked or under represented. Four of Gateway’s advisors and directors are blind or visually impaired and, while we recognize that barriers to access and inclusion are not usually built on purpose, this lived experience brings a unique perspective to this conversation, and more importantly to the appropriateness and effectiveness of solutions. The 2,500 blind and partially-sighted members of CCB represent the authentic voice of the blind community in Canada. We are the experts in blindness and not only need to be part of the conversation but involved in the policy decisions that impact our lives.
Working with partners in the United Kingdom, the United States and Israel, Gateway is positioning itself as a centre of excellence for interior location-based navigation services in Canada. Unlike GPS, which was made available through a network of pre-existing satellites launched by national governments and space agencies, interior navigation systems of a similar kind must be established one facility at a time.
Interior Navigation Technology:
Interior navigation technology is in its infancy, with most current systems employing a proprietary cellphone app to communicate with battery-powered low-energy beacons located at strategic decision-making points throughout the interior of a building. These beacons deliver both positioning and contextual information, enabling users to orient themselves, better understand their surroundings, and navigate to their desired destination. Apps and programmable beacons are available from numerous companies such as Right-Hear, Blind Square and Montreal-based Autour. These apps are not interchangeable, nor do they connect to pre-existing wireless networks within buildings.
Other technologies under development are designed to use the wireless infrastructure being retrofitted into existing buildings or installed in new ones. These systems provide location information using triangulation between wireless hot spots (a similar principle to exterior GPS) and construct internal databases of preferred routes through a building using a technique known as ‘wireless fingerprinting.’ These technologies rely in part on the ability of an app to determine the distance of the user from a wireless hot spot based on signal strength. Currently, signals can be severely compromised by the number of occupants and the presence of walls between source and receiver. With interior navigation in a period of rapid development, these and other shortcomings will likely be overcome in the near future.
Although Gateway hosted two demonstrations of beacon navigation systems in Vancouver and Burnaby in 2018, the company is not exclusively a promoter or purveyor of this technology, but rather has positioned itself as an information and implementation portal for all types of interior navigation systems - acting as advocate, advisor and educator for all stages of design, programming, installation and maintenance.
Rather than simply increasing the availability of a specific technology, the most fundamental requirement for the advancement of interior navigation systems is the creation of a universal language or protocol, that will ensure compatibility between smart phone navigation apps, and the beacons or other location-based systems with which they must communicate. The creation of this universal language, known as the Wayfindr Standard, is currently the focus of government and UN sponsored projects underway in the United States and Europe, and is recognized in principle by more than 150 countries worldwide. The Wayfindr Standard’ offers the promise of a single open-source ‘language’ that can be used by app developers worldwide, enabling seamless communication between navigation apps and the information apps provided by each venue. No longer will it be necessary to download an information app for every location you want to visit.
What remains to be done to provide a consistent and repeatable experience for users of an interior navigation app however, is the creation of a protocol for organizing the information databases they will be accessing at each venue. The value of such a database is best illustrated by the example of the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) recently launched in the United States.
Prior to 2005, there had not been any standard for public transit timetables. This deficiency was highlighted when Google introduced an integrated travel information system for drivers that enabled them to negotiate road and street networks across the country using Google Maps – whatever their preferred platform.
Frustrated by the lack of similarly integrated and accessible transit schedules, the Portland OR transit authority (TriMet) worked with Google to develop a consistent format for entering bus and train schedule information into a common database. In 2006 Portland became the first city included on this database, initially launched as google Transit Trip Planner, but later renamed GTFS. Transit authorities across the US can now add their own schedule information into the database, choosing from a menu of 50 attributes or descriptors compatible with all multi-modal journey planner applications.
Proposal: Database Development for Interior NavigationGateway envisages a similar database protocol that would provide a platform to which interior navigation information for any venue in Canada could be added. To do this, we would propose a pilot project involving four public buildings of different types: an office, a hospital, an airport and a library (for example) to define the broad set of parameters to which the protocol must respond.
A wireless low energy beacon system would be installed in each facility to test different approaches to the ordering of information recognizing that, among other things:
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