What is the best solution to my student's specific navigation needs?

iOS & iPadOS

I have a fourth-grade visually impaired student who wants to be able to navigate independently to her school bus every day. Unfortunately, the position of her school bus changes each day in the queue, and her visual impairment does not permit her to read the bus numbers. Would I be able to purchase/procure some sort of Bluetooth technology to help her navigate to her school bus? Currently she has an iPad, but if we need to purchase an Apple Watch or Bluetooth headset, to access a beacon, that would be possible. Yes, she could ask an adult or friend to steer her in the right direction, but my student is very independent, and she doesn't want to be forced to rely on others.
Is there any technology i could procure for her, so she would know which bus is her bus?
Thank you



Submitted by WriterGirl on Saturday, March 11, 2017

I'm a junior in high school and have been doing some O&M training with Blind Square. I've been using it for outdoor GPS navigation and marking landmarks, but it can also be connected to bluetooth beacons. I think you should be able to place a beacon on the bus, and then your student could use Blind Square to get audio directions to where the beacon is located. The only problem with this idea is that your student will probably either need an iPhone or a GPS receiver for her iPad in order for Blind Square to work correctly. It is also a huge battery drain, so she'll have to be careful about leaving the app running in the background.
Another option is Tile, which is a mainstream object locator. You could place a tile on the bus, and she could use the Tile App on her iPad to locate it. The issue here is that she would have to hear the Tile beeping, which would probably be very near impossible with buses running. The Tile App is also a bit of a nightmare to use with Voiceover, and I received the brush off upon contacting the developer.
I'm sure there are other bluetooth beacon apps that are accessible and don't require GPS reception, but honestly I think Blind Square is your best bet. It's probably a little more than you want right now since it is a full GPS solution, but it's the only thing I know of that will give audio directions to a beacon. Also, your student might benefit from Blind Square's landmark features. For instance, she could creat a GPS landmark for her bus stop, and the app could tell her when it's time to get off the bus.
Here's the link I found on Blind Square and beacons: http://blindsquare.com/indoor/
And here's the link to the app: BlindSquare by MIPsoft

Submitted by david s on Sunday, March 12, 2017


That’s awesome how she wants to be independent at such a young age.

With any solution, she will likely need cellular service if the school wifi does not reach the bus stop area.

My first thought was the bread crumb app but the bus is not always parked at the same spot so that will not work. I haven’t tried the beacon on blind square so I can’t comment on that.

Have you tried a low tech solution like taping a paper shaped like a star, circle or triangle on the windshield or side window of the bus? This way, if she can’t read the number on the bus, she can look for the symbol. Or have the school principal instruct the school bus operator to park her bus at the same place daily.

HTH and good luck.

Submitted by Lorianne on Sunday, March 12, 2017

Thanks for the information. I will look into blindsquare for my student to use with her family and when out in the community. Please keep those suggestions coming, as the school will not pay for gps access. I was really thinking a connection to the ipad through Bluetooth, as there wouldn't be much to purchase or set up. avid, I will ask her about the symbol, that is a good idea. I am not sure she can see that far, but it is worth asking. Thanks to both of you.

Submitted by Roxann Pollard on Monday, March 13, 2017

As a totally blind individual, I was transferred to my local public school in the sixth grade, (too long ago to confess the date). Anyway, I think that it's great that she wishes to be fully independent; however, I believe that she should learn how to ask for help and interact with others. My reasoning? This world just doesn't always accommodate us in life. If she doesn't learn the skill of asking questions or relying on others once in a while, she just might get a rude wake up call some day. Yes, if she can have the technology to assist her, all the better, but there is something to be said to learn how to ask the right questions so that she gets the assistance necessary. Beside all of that, sometimes the technology that we rely on fails, as well. Hopefully, she has someone in her life that will come along side her and encourage her to reach out when needed. I believe that she is her own best advocate, i.e., use a helping hand when necessary and, by all means, use the awesome technology when possible.

Submitted by Justin on Monday, March 13, 2017

Agree with Roxann. she won't like it, but she needs to be able to ask for help finding the bus, no questions. She'll be in for a rude awakening some day. Tech is good, but use the good ask for assistance sometimes. That's the best way to find things in my book.

Submitted by Lorianne on Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Yes, I agree that she needs to know how to ask for help. She is a very social 4th grader and her best friends generally walk her to the bus. she is comfortable asking. But she is also a bit of a geek and likes to have back-up plans, hence the request for technology. Keep those ideas coming!

Submitted by JeffB on Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How about some sort of audio cue from the bus? Could the bus play music or have the driver keep a look out for her and call out the bus number?