any apps to navigate a college campus?
I have a few thoughts.
First, the app that's really needed here is the same thing that hunters, fishermen and hikers need; an app that will let you drop pins -- that is create waypoints without a map.
Old GPs devices used to work like that; you simply created waypoints and the screen showed them in relation to each other in terms of distance and cardinal direction.
But now the map is so integrated in to a GPS that one doesn't realize they can be separate.
There are many apps for the sighted that do this, for example apps that let you mark where you park your car, then return to it using breadcrumbs. But the blindness apps haven't included the true ability to navigate in open spaces.
It's not just a college campus where you have these issues. It's business parks and city parks where your picnic is held, not to mention beaches, hiking trails and other outdoor arenas.
I work on a large community college campus; 112 acres. The software I found the most useful for navigation was the free Lodestone-gps for the Symbian phones. Wish it could be ported to iDevices, because it kept the GPS and the map separate. You could use the OpenStreet maps with it of course -- it was open source -- but you could also just create your own landmarks and then move between them without necessarily having a fixed or programmed "route".
One tip about improving O&M skills and getting directions. Each day that you arrive at a known building, ask the random sighted people around you to read the various signage. Our library is called the Learning Center. There's another building called "Mediated Learning Center". Yet a third building on our campus is called "Learning Center West". The building where I work says "Admissions" on the front, "Bookstore" on the back, "Student And Community Services" on one side, and "Parking Lot A" on its other side. Depending on what sign any particular sightling chooses to notice when you're lost, you might still be confused about your location. But if you know all the possible signage a particular building might display, then you're armed with better information.
One thing I often do is explain to someone "I always get lost when trying to find this building. What do you see here that's unique that I can describe to someone else so they'll know where I'm going?" That's how I learned where a building I'd been visiting for over ten years had a huge sculpture of a turtle in front of it. Now I can ask people if I'm facing the turtle and that really helps me stay oriented.
Like others said, I've had partial luck with iMove and Ariadne for marking buildings as landmarks. iMove makes it easy to record a voice label for a location. Maybe we should start writing developers of these mapless orienteering programs to see if they will add audio cues. It would also be useful for a sighted hiker when every hill and little lake looks like every other hill and little lake! And with audio, the sighted backpacker would not be getting his phone dirty.
After posting this I went out and walked with Seeing Assistant Move.
I tried areas where I had no internet connection. I tried the local park, and the college campus where I work.
Wow, this software has really improved.
I posted a full review here:
I tested with my iPHONE and my iPOD Touch using an XGPS-150 (an external GPS for the iPAD and iPOD.
I'm impressed. I think this program is the solution. It does tell you where your points are in relation to each other even with no internet connection.
I continue to be so impressed with Nearby Explorer, which does not need an internet connection with the paid version to work. And even the free version is fine if you have a good connection. Either way, you can navigate open spaces fine without the map. You simply turn all the announcements off you don't want to hear on its home screen and keep the announcements you do want to hear on. You mark your waypoints and you can use the geobeam and/or compass to stay oriented.
I continue to work on the large college campus. I have also visited other campuses, and notice that BlindSquare has most buildings marked in FourSquare for the campuses I visited.
One last tip: put up a sign on campus bulletin boards requesting a volunteer for a couple of hours. Many students need to do volunteer work to prove community involvement when applying for scholarships, higher degrees and even jobs.
Ask your volunteer to walk all routes with you that you find confusing and use a digital recorder to have him note all signage and building descriptions while your iPHONE marks relevant waypoints. Stop at each waypoint to enter a good description. Remember to ask how many entrances and exits each building has. Many college buildings will have only a few ways to get in, but multiple exits that are locked from the outside.
Remember too, that sighted helpers will show you the shortest route which is direct and as the crow flies. This might not be the best route for a blind person who needs to follow a path with a cane or dog. Ask if there is another route, possibly longer that has fewer turns in open space.
The comments that good O&M skills are essential I believe are a bit degrading. I have what I believe to be great O&M skills but I am in my sixties and my hearing is not as sharp, my balance not as good and my reaction time not as quick as someone in their twenties. I believe if one compared me with my younger self they would conclude that I had way better O&M skills then!
We need to realize that not all blind people have perfect health and good O&M skills can be affected by many things including a bad knee, sensitivity to glare, reduced hearing and even less experience as one's sight loss might be new. Do what you can to improve your O&M skills, but remember that the more tools you have at your disposal, the better!
Blind INC is another excellent training center