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New Tech: Aira Glasses

Bosma Enterprises - 1/31/2020 2:33:55 PM

No Fear, Aira is Here

It has been said, “If you are going to go blind, this is the best time to lose your sight.” I know that may sound crazy, but with advancements in technology, the world is now more accessible than ever.

For years, people who are blind had limited options for navigating the world, relying on guide dogs and white canes to help us explore our surroundings. Now, we have apps that can read printed text, identify products on your shelf, smartphones and other technology that help people who are blind be more independent and empower us to do things on our own, which is very empowering and rewarding.

I recently had the chance to sit down with Mendi Evans, assistive technology specialist at Bosma Enterprises, to learn more about this new and innovative technology called Aira. Aira is a paid service where a person who is blind or visually impaired (known as an explorer) uses their smartphone and/or glasses to connect with a live agent. The agents are specially trained to assist those who are blind with a variety of tasks ranging from sorting through your mail, navigating an unfamiliar building or even having an agent take pictures of people or things that would be meaningful to you.

Mendi’s experience with Aira started when she attended a conference in March 2018. As a service to conference-goers, the venue was an Aira access location, meaning if she signed up for an account, any minutes used at that location were free.

Mendi was anxious to see how Aira worked, so she activated the app to help her find a restaurant her first night at the conference. However, the real test came the next day when she decided to navigate through the exhibit hall. “For anyone who has never attended a conference, imagine a large room filled with rows upon rows of booths, and some are not in a straight line, meaning simply walking up and down the aisles doesn’t cut it. Additionally, there are lots of people milling about, also trying to check out what, at this show, were nearly 100 exhibitors,” she said.

Frustrated by seemingly walking in circles, Mendi decided she would use an Aira agent to help her navigate through all those people and booths. “It felt awkward walking with my cell phone out in front of me, camera out, so the agent could talk me through the hall, but all thoughts of how awkward it was were quickly forgotten when I asked for assistance to each booth I was looking for and found them with ease.”

The agent helped guide her around the people and to each of the booths she asked for, not becoming impatient at all as she stopped to chat and gather information. After her nearly hour-long experience, she decided then and there Aira would be worth the paid subscription.

Although there is a fee associated with the service, Mendi finds it to be worth the money.  Knowing that at a moment’s notice, at any time of day, she can receive assistance with tasks big and small, is a great feeling. The best part about Aira is that the agents are patient, describe as much or as little as needed and are very polite. Mendi’s experiences with Aira was a delight and would encourage anyone who is on the fence about the service, to try it out.

To learn more about assistive technology, or Bosma Enterprises, visit www.bosma.org