Towards Visually Impaired Autonomy in Smart Cities: The Electronic Long Cane Project

Towards Visually Impaired Autonomy in Smart Cities: The Electronic Long Cane Project

Alejandro Rafael Garcia Ramirez (Universidade do Vale de Itajaí, Brazil), Israel Gonzalez-Carrasco (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain), Gustavo Henrique Jasper (Universidade do Vale de Itajaí, Brazil), Amarilys Lima Lopez (Universidade do Vale de Itajaí, Brazil), Renato Fonseca Livramento da Silva (Universidade Federal da Paraíba, Brazil) and Angel Garcia Crespo (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7030-1.ch066
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Urban growth adversely affects accesses to public spaces and to their physical and functional structures. Simple tasks become a challenge for visually impaired individuals either because of the difficulty getting reliable non-visual information from the surrounding space or the lack of information. In Smart Cities scenarios, important investments will be directed to urban accessibility, but nowadays people with sensory disabilities still have to face mobility problems in those spaces. Therefore, designing suitable solutions to provide more information about urban spaces is extremely important and requires user participation. This context motivated the development of the Electronic Long Cane project. The project enhances the features of traditional long canes to detect obstacles located above the waist. Nowadays, the electronic cane was redesigned including new functions based on the Internet of Things. As a result, evidences of User-Centric Design have emerged, increasing the probability of success of this technology in Smart Cities context.
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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were 285 million visually impaired people in 2010. In addition, 39 million were blind people and 90% of them inhabit in low and middle-income countries (Pascolini & Mariotti, 2011). The population with some sort of visual impairments was 4.25% and 82% of blind people were over 50 years of age.

In Brazil, more than 45.6 million people reported some sort of disability (IBGE, 2010). This number represents 23.9% of the population. In addition, 18.8%, say, they have some difficulty even using glasses or contact lenses and 18.7% of the population of 90.7 million of visually impaired individuals were declared blind.

In June 2004, the Cities Ministry launched the Brazilian Program for Urban Accessibility (Accessible Brazil) establishing a new vision for the universal access to public spaces. This program consisted of actions and instruments that aim to encourage and support local and state governments developing rules to ensure access and free circulation in public areas to any sort of individuals.

Such actions were supported by the Law 10.048 of November 8, 2000, ensuring essential services to people with disability, elderly, pregnant women, nursing mothers and people accompanied with infants. Enacted a month later, the Law 10.098, of December 19, 2000, established general rules and basic criteria promoting accessibility for people who have some sort of disability or reduced mobility by removing barriers and obstacles in public spaces.

In this context, assistive technologies emerge to provide accessible and affordable mobility aids to improve the interaction between individuals and the urban spaces (Cook & Polgar, 2013). Assistive technologies for urban spaces have also been conciliated to attend people with visual impairments. They are usually featured by integrated solutions who attempt to enhance the interaction within the complexity of the surrounding spaces, improving quality of life (Hersh & Johnson, 2008).

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