Although posters and signage systems are intended to make everyday life in public spaces easier, they often exclude visually impaired people. Many pieces of information communicated by traders and service providers via signs or notice boards (special offers, events, opening hours) cannot be perceived by those with impaired vision. Problems also occur when using public transport: temporary changes to timetables are only announced in writing on the announcement boards at stops. This problem is addressed by Annemarie Wald and Evelin Rakiec in a study written as a bachelors thesis at Mainz University of Applied Sciences in early 2014, resulting in the accessibility app “Sinneswandel” [change of mind]. The app is designed to help the visually impaired deal with everyday situations in public spaces as independently as possible, with an accompanying event intended to raise awareness of the app among the target group and draw public attention to the right to inclusion. Among others, the concept is based on the fact that shopping and the use of public transport is something that links sighted and visually impaired people.
Annemarie Wald and Evelin Rakiec designed the project “Sinneswandel” [change of mind] as a pilot scheme for the Mainz area. Although Mainz is a large city, its shopping area is manageable in size. Moreover, the city is already working actively to help blind and visually impaired people: there are orientation systems, an accessibility website, barrier-free guided tours, and a taxi service.
The “Sinneswandel” concept is as follows: the app is accessible to blind users via Voice-Over. It uses GPS, is smart phone compatible, and can be personalized via a range of settings. Users can filter trade sectors and themes, as well as setting the radius for which information is to be provided. Various sounds and vibration patterns make it easy to distinguish between types of messages. Traders and service providers register with the “Sinneswandel” microsite to broadcast their news: from altered opening times to the week’s special offers, from emergency announcements to staff vacancies, any kind of information can be distributed. The accessible website provides an additional source of information. To raise awareness of the app among the target group, a special event will be organized, drawing the attention of traders and service providers to the needs of visually impaired customers, as well as informing the general public about the right to inclusion.
Wald and Rakiec are currently speaking to various local associations in search of partners to put the concept into practice.