By Katherine Irwin
Katherine Irwin is a senior at UAA, majoring in Journalism & Public Communications with a minor in art. Irwin also works at the DSS office as a student worker.
Accessible Wayfinding and Campus Navigation System has made its way to UAA this summer and is starting the installation process.
The University Technology Council awarded a grant to UAA’s Disability Support Services to receive AWCNS and install it on campus for the Blind/Visually Impaired individuals. However, it not only benefits the BVI but also everyone else as well.
It is a program that is similar to Google Maps but is localized on the campus, navigating the users to classes and buildings in real-time audio feedback on a free app and website. Users are notified of the locations, directions and any potential hazards, not including moose, on their route by a digitized voice in the program.
The technology includes Bluetooth iBeacons that are strategically placed throughout the campus and send information to the users’ app on their phone or mobile computer, guiding them where they want to go.
The maps on the app have various BVI-friendly features that include high-contrast colors, large prints and audio feedback. Low-vision maps and tactile maps have been installed around the campus in key locations as well. The system is already in many airports worldwide, and BVI individuals use the app.
In addition to the Wayfinding system on UAA main campus, two large metal maps of the campus with raised icons will be set up in the UAA/APU Consortium Library and the new DSS office in Rasmuson Hall. The office will be moving from Rasmuson Hall, Room 105 to where the Confucius Institute was previously located, Suite 115.
“UAA is a big campus; it is easy to get lost, whether sighted or not. It can get confusing. We do have signs on campus, but it is not enough. I hope the new system will help people — new students, current students, delivery drivers — to see the events,” Heather Swanson, DSS technology specialist, said.
“I am excited, and I think it will bring more individuals to UAA,” Kelsy Tallant, a sophomore psychology student who identifies as a blind person, said. “This will be less confusing for blind people… and other individuals who get consumed, less confusing for them.”
As part of the UAA 2020 goals, this system is leading UAA in implementing inclusive, innovative technology. Joe Cioffie, the CEO of ClickAndGo Wayfinding Maps, and Brian Li, project manager, visited UAA in July to record video, take measurements and create the system for the university.
Cioffie says UAA is the first university of its scale to utilize AWCNS and is setting a new standard for universities across the nation. Several educational institutions have this type of technology and found it to be successful.
“We are talking about student success. We meet all students and their success, right? So… having this app, it’s a great opportunity,” Ben Morton, Dean of Students, said.
AWCNS is expected to be fully launched in spring of 2019 for use on campus.
For more information on how AWCNS works, visit the youtube video at https://youtu.be/5o7RKvHhXIA.