BlindSquare: Helping the Visually Impaired with Their Daily Lives

“BlindSquare is a new solution that combines the latest technology to help the blind with their daily lives.”

BlindSquare is an app currently available for iPhones and iPads (hopefully coming soon for Android devices) that uses GPS and the device’s built-in compass to locate where a person is and then uses data from Foursquare to inform the person about locations nearby that they may be interested in. The suggestions are communicated to the person using the device’s speech capabilities.

If the person is interested in any of the suggested locations, they can then use their device to do any of the following tasks:

  • Get contact info (address, phone number)
  • Open the location’s website, twitter feed, or other related sites
  • Open a restaurant’s menu
  • Call the locaiton
  • Start tracking the place (BlindSquare will assist you by repeating the distance and the clock face direction)
  • Start your favorite navigator for turn-by-turn instructions
  • Mark a location so it can be found more easily later

BlindSquare can be used to find interesting places while walking, or while traveling by bus, car, or train – and can even report upcoming stops while using public transportation.

“BlindSquare makes you sense what’s around you. The only thing you need to do is listen.”

How does this project make the world a better place?
BlindSquare enables blind and visually impaired people to more be spontaneous instead of having to plan out every stop on a trip before leaving the house. It helps them explore neighborhoods and try new things on their own – without needing to rely on others.

Who is the intended audience?
Blind or visually impaired people, especially those in urban areas. (due to the increased number of Foursquare locations logged)

How can our audience extend the impact of this work?
The developers of this app have set a great example for combining existing data and tools with their own work in order to create something useful. Think about ways you can build upon a pre-existing object or platform to improve upon it.

Also, since the app works by suggesting locations logged within FourSquare, one way you can indirectly help users of BlindSquare is by logging more locations in FourSquare.

submitted by: laurenbaier

Biblioburro: The amazing story of a mobile library on the back of a donkey

This week, we simply wanted to share with you this amazing video we recently came across — the story of a man in Colombia who travels with a mobile library on the backs of donkeys to share his books with kids in rural areas. The video is a few years old, and even though it’s difficult to find updates on his story, it’s exciting to think about the progress Luis Soriano may have made since this was recorded!

submitted by: laurenbaier

CommunityMatters: Using Conference Calls to Engage Communities

CommunityMatters is “a commons for those working to steer change, engage citizens and build strong, vibrant communities from the ground up”. Their network includes leaders, thinkers and doers in a variety of disciplines – planning, sustainability, health, democracy, education, economic development and the arts - all of which are critical to building stronger communities.

In early 2009 BYO worked with CommunityMatters to develop a way to engage with their audience in a deep and meaningful way.  After several strategy sessions we collectively came up with a concept to run a conference call series. Each 60-minute call fosters conversation about critical issues, tools and inspiring stories of community building.

The conference call series is still going strong, and draws approximately 100 diverse participants each month. Calls cover a wide range of topics in community planning and building – including diversity, equity, sustainability, skill building, storytelling, placemaking, DIY urbanism, civic engagement and technology.

Each call includes a facilitator and two speakers - one who is thinking about the topic on a higher level and another who is in the trenches implementing. The goals of each call are to:

  • impart inspirational stories to participants 
  • showcase new tools and ideas to to experiment with 
  • provide a realistic view of implementation challenges and how to overcome them. 

These conference calls are not a one-way conversations. Those listening in have several options when deciding how to participate, including:

  • submitting questions ahead of time when they register 
  • submitting questions via a live google doc; the facilitator then calls on individuals with questions in turn 
  • taking notes via the google doc 
  • speaking up during specific points in the call when group mute is paused 

The google doc has proved to be an excellent way to moderate questions on the conference call, which can otherwise get unwieldy.

How does this project make the world a better place?
The conference call series is helping to spread ideas about real, tangible change in communities. Different communities often struggle with the same set of challenges, but rarely get the chance to connect with each other and share best practices and advice. The series has proven to be a great way for people to find ideas that will aid in strengthening their own communities. In an area of jargon and empty ideas, conference call participants really appreciate hearing honest stories about what works and what doesn’t.

Furthermore, this is a great example of picking the right tool for your audience. Instead of using a digital platform or webinar which is all too popular, we decided to use a tool that is more accessible to people in small towns and rural areas that might not have access to a smart phone or high-speed internet at home – the telephone. This ensures that people who do not yet have robust digital skills or do not have time to sit in front of a computer can still be successfully engaged.

Who is the intended audience?
The conference call series draws 100 different people each month, and includes participants from towns of 500 people to people from the biggest cities in the country. CommunityMatters recruits call participants from all areas to show how something in NYC might work in a rural area, and vice versa. They have had callers from all 50 states, 12 foreign countries, non-profit and city leaders, unaffiliated citizen organizers, teachers, academics and other planning professionals, all brought together by their common mission to strengthen their communities.

How can our readers extend the impact of this work?
Join us for a call, or help spread the word to others who may be interested!

RSVP for the next call (May 9th):

Sign up for updates from CommunityMatters:

submitted by: laurenbaier

Accent theme by Handsome Code

BYO projects is a collection of projects curated by Yasmin Fodil and Lauren Baier and submitted by you!

We showcase projects that make the world a better place through creative problem solving, experience design, technology, and community engagement.

All submitted projects are considered for our Projects We Love page, where we highlight exemplary work in these fields.

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