By Bill Phung, Orientation and Mobility Instructor
BALANCE staff recently attended the AER Orientation and Mobility Conference 2017 held on July 19th to 22nd in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the Wyndham Grand. Over these four days, we were able to attend many interesting and informative sessions, which ranged from discussions on tools used to create tactile maps to current projects on the development and implementation of indoor navigation systems. One of the highlights was the keynote speech given by Dr. Steven Shladover. He joined us remotely to discuss automated vehicles in our future and the many barriers that needed to be overcome in order to make it a safe and realistic possibility. In another session led by Dr. Robert Wall Emerson, he discussed the research he and his team have been conducting for 10 years at “uncontrolled” crossings, those street crossings without lights, stop signs or “yield to pedestrians” type signage. While instances of these types of crossings are rare in Toronto, our team learned their teaching is indeed supported by the best evidence in the field.
At the conference, we were also able to reconnect with industry leaders who are actively developing products to help the blind and partially sighted community to travel safely. As an Orientation and Mobility Instructor, the latest tech has me most excited for my clients. To name a few, there is the latest iteration of the BuzzClip from iMerciv and a three-wired Accessible Pedestrian Signal (APS) system with Bluetooth from Polara. This really piqued my interest as it would allow a person with vision loss to remotely interact with the APS panels, which can sometimes be difficult to locate, particularly during the winter season.
My colleagues, Deborah Gold and Jordan Dumoulin, also presented on the topic of adapting instruction for adults with additional challenges which was well received and elicited a great group discussion amongst attendees. This was a great talking point, as we were able to share creative solutions from other O&M instructors in the field, such as hooking up a speaker and bell system to assist a client in locating a bathroom using auditory information.
Overall, we had a positive, enjoyable and enlightening experience! We are looking forward to attending more conferences in order to continuously grow as instructors and provide the best service possible to BALANCE participants!