Sendero Group Travel Blog

Follow Sendero travelers on their adventures using accessible GPS.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Exploring London

We have just return from our explorations in the Euston Square Camden section of London. After meeting over drinks at the hotel, we picked a pub about a mile away and found our way there, not so simple. We came to one very complicated intersection with multiple lanes and lots of construction.
We met one of those rare people who were helpful but not over the top. The guy got the fact that we were trying to work this out on our own so he just helped us through the construction without giving away the location of the pub we were seeking. We toasted him as an exemplary member of the public.

We next picked Indian as our food of choice and spent quite a bit of time using all techniques to locate a place and to find out about ratings. We ended up at the Taste of India. One requirement was that it wasn't too loud so we could converse. That was the case and the food was great.

We then stopped by a couple more pubs that were too loud and ended up back at our hotel bar to debrief about our evening together.

We learned a lot from each other, not only about GPS but about many other topics. What a special treat to spend an evening with like-minded explorers and thinkers.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


flying into the UK

It has been a while since I used GPS during a flight, with the pilots permission.

We were on a 777 and the iBlue acquired easily.

We fly up over Canada and I saw a point I created years ago over Iceland.
When we got over Scotland and then England, it was fun to see users points like the dog run at a hotel recorded by Gavin Atkins, some others by JG1104 and more. Glad to see you guys are enriching the environment.

Mike and Charles at a Fountain in Birmingham
Now, we are in Birmingham for the Sight Village conference. Looking forward to seeing people at our presentation at the HumanWare booth or around the hall.  Listen to an audio file Mike created at a fountain in Birmingham.

We had a fun hour and a half driving from the airport to test 3 GPS systems including the UK version of the Seeing Eye GPS. The main differences to deal with are maps and address matching, which is handled differently in the databases. Some cool stuff in the works.


Saturday, July 06, 2013


A day at Disney World using 6 orientation and mobility tools

I took a break from the NFB conference and went to DisneyWorld on Friday. I connected for a bit with a few blind folks but mostly navigated on my own.
It was a lot of work! Even with The OnHand with SenseNav, BlindSquare and Seeing Eye GPS, oh, and the Disney Audio Guide, I averaged about 1 attraction per hour or less.

First, in terms of Disney, the audio guide has no navigation but it does tell you information about venues when you are in their vicinity. I found this at Disneyland as well, it takes a while to get the units working and the staff don't really know how to use them. In this case, the unit that worked at the Epcot Center, did not work in the Magic Kingdom even though I was told it would.

The staff are super helpful but most are not experienced in giving directions or even telling you they are there. I had to depend a lot on sighted directions and it was like pulling teeth to get useful information.

There certainly were lots of Foursquare points around the parks, available in both of the iPhone apps. There was little value to the routing of Seeing Eye GPS since the park streets are only partially in the map database. This means with Blindsquare and Seeing Eye, you use the getting warmer technique to navigate to locations. Since there are not many straight paths, this involves a lot of circuitous walking. Nonetheless, it does work, it just takes a while, not to mention the mobility of dense crowds. I checked into Foursquare in hopes that I might connect with some other blind folks from the convention but that didn't happen nor did I run across any.

My dog Tank did an incredible job. The disconnect is when I would get to a ride where I couldn't take my dog and they would put him in a cage. One Disney employee would watch the dog while another would guide me to the ride and back. Didn't seem like an ideal system but at least they had a way of making it work. I did bring a cane for this situation. I was glad to have the dog for mobility in the crowds and to find the openings in the winding roads and building arches. I could not have accomplished this with a cane.

The OnHand was my strongest tool, simply because of the volume of noise and the fact that I needed my ears for mobility. I used the Braille display to track the getting warmer destination. It didn't have all the foursquare points so that was the down side. I added about 15 points, which are now in the collective user database, available for your download. Having the Braille display was wonderful.

I did record a replay while on Space Mountain. Not sure how well it worked because I assume the GPS would be lost while in the heart of the mountain. I did try to keep my hand on the display while flying through the tunnels but it was not possible most of the time.

I am always interested in the strengths and weaknesses of the various devices and this was certainly an opportunity to compare. They all have their benefits. It certainly taxed my brain to operate 4 devices and to deal with mobility and intense crowds and noise. I was exhausted by the time I got back to the hotel. I should make you tired just hearing this story.

Bottom line, I'd recommend going to Disney World or Land with a sighted person and perhaps one navigation device. It is too bad the Disney audio device doesn't have a navigation component or that the Disney content isn't stored in our user POI database, something we certainly could do. We have marked almost all the attractions in the Disneyland parks and now we have 15 in Disney World. 

Michael May


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