Would this new app help you navigate an airport?

Living in downtown Chicago makes it easy for me to fly on my own with my Seeing Eye dog. We take a shuttle bus from downtown, check my bag at curbside, latch on to an airport attendant to guide us through security, on to the gate from there, ask my escort to help me find a seat near the jetway to hear where to go when it’s time to board, and…take-off! (The photo is my Seeing Eye dog Whitney and me waiting for a ride to the airport after a trip out west.)

An article in AOL Tech says San Francisco International Airport is about to unveil a product they say will make life even easier for those of us who are blind or have visual impairments find our way through an airport. Tthis fall the airport plans to unveil a Bluetooth beacon system to help passengers with visual impairments find our way through Terminal 2 using our phones “without asking for help.”

With this new app, when users with visual impairments walk past transmitters, the transmitters will send announcements through our phones about flight gates, information desks and power outlets and what the article calls “points of interest.”

I myself do not mind asking for help or being escorted to the gate, but I know that people who are blind are all different. Some of us are more independent (or more shy!) than others, and if this technology works, I guess we’ll all have more choices and more ways to navigate an airport.

And hey, if “points of interest” includes women’s restrooms at airports, I may give this new technology a try. Otherwise I can’t picture myself stopping, checking my phone, and listening to what it says in order to find something. For me, it’s just as easy to ask one of the thousands of people in the airport whether I’m at the right gate. But that’s just.

I do understand that accessibility features are often “downward compatible” and end up benefiting all sorts of people. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and text-to-speech apps, for example. They were targeted for people who were blind when they first came out, and now lots of other people use those apps, too.

So who knows what will come of this new airport app? If anyone wants to fly me to San Francisco to check it out, hey, I’m willing — I can pack my bag and catch the shuttle with my Seeing Eye dog in a matter of minutes!

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