The CNIB is Championing Accessibility Through Technology

It’s technology’s job to make life easier, whether that means simpler ways to manage payroll or create logos. Sometimes that means making the world more accessible to all kinds of people.

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) is helping to do just that by partnering with three companies to bring accessible technology to more people in Canada than ever. The CNIB is working with Aira, BlindSquare and Key2Access to make the country an easier place to navigate for the more than 500,000 Canadians living with sight loss.

These new partnerships mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which happens on the third Thursday of May. CNIB is looking to unleash the technology these three companies offer across the country to help improve the lives of citizens they interact with every day.

“Devices small enough to fit in the palm of your hand are empowering people who are blind to explore and engage in their communities like never before,” said John M. Rafferty, president and CEO, CNIB. “We need to be at the forefront of providing and advocating for these incredible tools.”

Aira is a Californian company that is launching now in Canada. They produce smart glasses equipped with video along with an iOS or Android app to offer one-button access to a network of sighted experts who can help the wearer do almost anything. For those without smartphones, Aira’s latest product offers direct access without the need for an app.

BlindSquare is used in over 160 countries and helps those sight problems better navigate through their communities using their iPhone. With over 100 million points of interest, BlindSquare can describe everything from public transit to intersections.

Key2Access is a Montreal startup that makes crossing intersections safer for those with sight problems or other disabilities. Users download the app that connects to smart pedestrian signals, then they can remotely activate the crossing signal and receive audible information as to when it is safe to cross.

Crossing Street
A Key2Access user crossing the street.

“This is just the beginning of what’s to come,” said Len Baker, VP of partnerships and innovation at CNIB. “We look forward to partnering with other companies and groups working on barrier-smashing technologies. They are transforming the world for people with sight loss, and we want to make sure Canadians benefit.”

Accessible technology in Canada has been witnessing a lot of growth over the past year. Companies like eSight are pledging to eradicate blindness and even landed on TIME Magazine’s best invention list, while Magnusmode and educational institutions are working on projects to make public areas more accessible, like smart stairs.

The government of Canada is doing their part as well with a recent $22 million investment to make digital tools easier to access for those with disabilities, as well as improved agile procurement methods so any type of person can access open government data without hindrance.

CNIB will champion these companies and their technology through their existing connections to governments, businesses and public organizations.