Thursday, 20 January 2011

It's a Breeze!

I’ve never been a very technical person. I can just about send texts on my phone, update this blog and browse the net! I’ve also never really been a whizz at mobility, with a cane or my furry friend. So, finding a simple technical device to aid my mobility has been a nightmare!

At first I tried Way Finder, which works alongside Talks (the speech software) on your mobile. Somebody had to load this on my phone for me, but after asking around a few people nobody could show me how to use it! Apparently, if you know how it works it can be quite helpful, as you can type in a postcode and be on your way. The GPS software costs approximately £250.

Next, I tried the Kaptan. This is a small hand held device, which is charged via your computer and the software is loaded on that way too. When I originally got it, it was new on the market, so didn’t have the ability to type in postcodes, but you could do other addresses. Road names, house numbers etc. Like the Way Finder you have to wear headphones to hear the instructions. Kaptan is also voice activated, so I could be giving Calvin instructions and it would confuse the device. I found it difficult walking with an ear piece in, controlling Calvin and understanding its directions. For instance, it would tell you on your left were such and such street, but it would be in fact over the road and not directly on your route. This device costs about £150 and I’m sure is useful to some people.

Finally, my local society for the blind purchased a Trekker Breeze. After reading the description, I wasn’t very impressed, as you are unable to type in addresses and have to pre-record routes onto the system. However, I thought there would be no harm in trying it out. At first I tried walking with the device in one hand, but this proved annoying, as I regularly need to correct my perfect little Guide Dog, which I wasn’t able to do. So, in a moment of stress, I threw the machine into my back pack with the volume turned up to full. I was also frustrated because I kept pressing the wrong buttons to try and record a route. I didn’t realise that it would still let you know what road you are on or approaching. This was all the information I required, as I generally know where I’m going with Calvin, but he’ll sometimes zoom around a corner without me knowing. This way when I am about 5m away from a road crossing it will announce what road I’m approaching on my left or right. This gives me the opportunity to steady Calvin and ensure we stay on track. This isn’t what everyone is looking for, but it works for me and I can relax on walks in the knowledge that I won’t get lost or if I do I can work out how to get back on route. You can record landmarks, entire routes or just press the ‘where am I’ button as and when you need. I generally just have it in my coat pocket these days and nobody even notices I have it. As with any device it’s not perfect, as you might lose reception in built up areas or on a windy day it gets a bit confused! However, it’s great that I can just turn it on and be on my way! I managed to get funding from RNIB and VISTA, so have my own now, it costs approximately £500.

One satisfied customer!

12 comments:

Jen said...

Sounds good. I've never tried any gps devices yet but would really like to have a look at them, just a look though until I get some spare money, which will probably never happen.

Terri said...

i've never really liked GPS and have never tried it with a guide dog and think i would find it too confusing but would love to try that device. Must say your lucky to have got a grant from RNIB as they are pretty tight for money at the mo, i do laugh at what some people want grants for!

L^2 said...

I have had a Trekker Breeze for almost a year now and I love it! Like you, I oftentimes just walk with it turned on automatically announcing streets and landmarks without it plotting a direct route for me. Mine came with a shoulder strap that makes it easy for carrying without having to hold it or put it in a pocket. I bet you could get one somewhere that would work with it. Also, HumanWare put out an update for the Breeze back in early December that now allows users to input addresses into the Breeze. I know it seems like it wouldn't be possible with it's simple button setup but the way it is done is rather ingenious. You should check out the website for that software update.

Selina Litt said...

Thanks for commenting L2, don't think i've seen you comment on my blog before. I only got my Breeze this week and assumed it was the same as the one i've been using. I might already have the update, suppose I should read the instructions! Although I see you're in the States and you always get everything 100 years before us! Oh and as for the strap, I got one, apparently it says Humanware in big letters accross it! It looks like a sam brown and i'd rather not be a walking advert! My pocket wil do!

L^2 said...

Yeah, I've been reading your blog for awhile, but I'm bad about leaving comments sometimes. :)
The strap that came with my Breeze does say Humanware in white letters on the wider shoulder section of the strap, but I just put that to the inside since the strap is all black on the back side - because I don't want to be a walking advertisement either. LOL
Hopefully yours already has the update - Humanware is based in Canada and the UK so it seems to me like you guys tend to get updates on their products before the U.S. does.

Torie said...

I only used the trekker once with the cane and hated it! It is so confusing! Glad you are getting some use out of it though. Xxx.

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