29 March 2010
Wayfinder Access is a GPS satellite navigation solution aimed at the visually impaired and blind user community. The application runs on nokia’s Symbian series 60 mobile phones such as those popular with the screen readers Nuance Talks and Code Factory’s Mobile Speak.
Full product specifications and details can be found at: http://www.wayfinderaccess.com
Released in April 2006, Wayfinder Access was the first GPS application capable of route calculation for our user community which ran on mobile phones. Since its release literally thousands of blind and low vision users have benefited from this powerful navigational aid.
In January 2010, Wayfinder Systems (based in Sweden) quietly and without direct consultation nor notification to users, cancelled all future development work on their entire product range. This of course including the highly important Access application.
Why is Access so important?
Many blind and low vision people find independent mobility a daunting and difficult task. With the advent of GPS technology, a market has arisen in supplying this technology to blind and low vision users. The technology provides a greater level of confidence and self-assuredness which is gained by understanding where you are and what’s around you at any one point in time. Add to this the ability for those with good mobility and orientation skills to walk routes which they’ve not necessarily been pre-taught, and the benefits become obvious.
Whilst it is recognised that there are alternative GPS solutions on the market for this user group, one size does not fit all, and most of the alternatives are more expensive and can require the user to carry around and maintain additional expensive equipment, which is not necessary when using a mobile phone based navigation solution as users typically carry their phone anyhow.
To view a complete list of currently compatible GPS solutions for the blind / low vision market please visit: http://www.accessiblegps.com.
For blind users in certain countries, such as India, there isn’t even an alternative for Wayfinder access, so it’s discontinuation will inevitably put them back to a point in time where they don’t have access to any accessible GPS solution , depriving them of the significant boost in independence and confidense Wayfinder Access could offer them.
The Future of Wayfinder Access
Wayfinder Systems, which was bought out by the UK mobile phone giant Vodafone in January 2009, has failed yet to make any formal statement to the user group, nor has either organization provided an explanation as to why they have cancelled such an obviously important and essential mobility aid.
We the undersigned are seeking an explanation, and whilst we understand that Vodafone Group Plc and Wayfinder Systems are commercial organizations, we feel that a far greater level of sensitivity could have been shown towards this specific product and it’s user community.
We request that a representative of Vodafone Group Plc offers us a formal explanation and detailed reasoning behind why the application was terminated from ongoing development.
Furthermore, we’d ask them to confirm by way of an assurance that the servers and systems which power the application will remain in operation and operable by all users until the very last user has stopped service.
Beyond this we would also enquire as to why if Vodafone / Wayfinder didn’t wish to continue development, that an alternative option couldn’t have been found, such as rights given for the product to be developed. There are many companies with specific experience in development of products for this user group who would happily have taken over this task.
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