January 2005 Issue  Volume 6  Number 1

Letters to the Editor

GPS for Walking and Riding

Thank you for the thorough review of GPS travel devices. I hope you will soon review the GPS add-on for the Pac Mate. I am a long-time user of Atlas Speaks and later GPS-Talk [originally developed at Arkenstone], but have never been able to afford a dedicated PDA [personal digital assistant] for the blind. I do wish these manufacturers would write software-only GPS mapping products that can be run on any Windows-based laptop. My guide dog and I depend on GPS-Talk to confidently explore new areas, and sub-notebook laptops are cheaper than dedicated devices.

GPS-Talk, the only product to run on a standard laptop, was discontinued four years ago. Based on 16-bit Windows 3.X code, and unable to handle the challenges of car navigation, it is hopelessly out of date.

I think product designers and reviewers are putting too great an emphasis on pedestrian navigation. Sighted spouses assume that now you have spent a fortune on a talking GPS, you will be able to give them turn-by-turn directions wherever you go. Even the current products can't look ahead far enough to tell a driver when to get into the correct lane. My husband was quite annoyed to discover, that after we'd budgeted for my GPS-Talk, I couldn't even give him the names of highway exits.

More and more blind people today are seniors with medical problems that limit their ability to walk long distances. It is also important to realize that New York City, where AccessWorld is edited, is one of the few places with good public transportation where the sighted get out of their cars. In most parts of the country, we blind people are often stuck with paratransit, because there are simply no sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, and buses. We therefore need to know if our dial-a-ride driver is actually taking us on the shortest route.

Deborah Norling
Alternate Media Specialist, DeAnza College
Cupertino, CA

Waiting for the Rebate

Just a quick note to tell you about my experiences with the Nokia 6620 telephone with TALKS software via Cingular. First, overall, I'm pleased with the phone, though I'd like Web access and the ability to use speech while in a phone call (that deficiency was mentioned in the article.)

Second, I've had some difficulty getting the rebates back from Cingular. The rebate forms are their standard forms, and don't address the rebate issue for the speech software. While their National Center for Customers with Disabilities sent me the form as I requested, I have no guarantee that I'll get the rebate for the access software; it would certainly be nice to apply the $199 to my phone service, which Cingular mentions on their Web site. While they had the infrastructure to send out the phones and software, the salespeople at Cingular didn't know what I was talking about. So, unless they've straightened out the bugs, I'd wait awhile.

Matthew Chao
Newton, MA

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