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for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

AFB eNews

July/August 2009

AFB Partners with AOL to Explore the Feasibility of Accessible Walking Directions from MapQuest

Ever wonder whether an online service designed to provide driving directions to the sighted could provide relevant information to the blind, or others with vision loss? So have AFB TECH and AOL. Together the organizations are developing early prototype technology intended to harness the vast amounts of data available from AOL's MapQuest to create Accessible Walking Directions (AWD). The first of its kind, this effort is reaching an important phase in development. A small group of blind and visually impaired individuals will soon use their computers to try the AWD service. With white canes and dog guides, in places including Washington DC, the suburbs, and a small town in Iowa, these volunteer "Test Pilots" will evaluate the accuracy of the provided directions on travel routes with which they are very familiar. The results of this testing will illuminate the path ahead for the technology.

AWD is being developed in response to a real need for directions services for blind and visually impaired people who do not drive. AFB and AOL believe that, if the technology works well in testing, it may be possible to provide AWD as a free, online service that will provide travelers with a more detailed set of door-to-door walking directions than those typically available from online driving directions services.

If successful, here's how the first generation of AWD will work:

  • Trip Planner: Enter begin and end locations or select from a list of saved locations to create your route.
  • Trip Viewer: presents the route in easy-to-follow segments.
  • Points of Interest: Choose from categories such as coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, etc., to have their locations described along the route.
  • Easy Route Review: Route segments, cross streets, and points of interest are organized by heading level for easy access to specific types of information.

Earlier this month, AOL and AFB publicly unveiled an Accessible Walking Directions Test Pilot program and has invited a group of volunteers from the community to pilot it. If you or someone you know is interested in participating in the pilot project, please send an e-mail to with the subject line "AWD Pilot Test." You will then be contacted directly by AOL.

News and Announcements

Important Update Regarding the Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute

The American Foundation for the Blind has decided not to host a Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute (JLTLI) in 2010 due to the current economic climate and its impact on travel budgets everywhere. The next JLTLI is scheduled for spring 2011, and will once again bring together leaders both seasoned and new in this field to share their knowledge and expertise to improve the quality of life for people with visual impairments. Stay tuned for more information on the 2011 Institute as it is available in the coming year.

Botanical Art: The Fun and Beauty of Gardening

AFB CareerConnect® recently posted a new success story on Jessie Rayl. Come experience the sights, sounds, and smells in Jessie's yard as she uses her garden to find tranquility and relaxation.

AFB Blog

Check out AFB's blog and read about a lawsuit against Arizona State University, AFB Consulting and accessibility, the 40th anniversary of NEI, scholarships, the new iPhone 3G S, and much more!

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