Guide Dogs and Melbourne Zoo Harness Technology To Increase Accessibility

People with visual impairments can now access all areas of Melbourne Zoo without the need for guide dogs.

What you need to know
  • Certain areas of the zoo are off limits to guide dogs
  • The iBeacons send signals to smart phones and are used when GPS is unreliable or non existent
  • The technology is funded under the National Disability Insurance Scheme

People with visual impairments will have full access to Melbourne Zoo following the release of iBeacon technology that helps them navigate the grounds.

Although Guide Dogs are widely accepted in most public places, certain areas of the zoo have been off limits to assistance animals due to quarantine rules that protect both the assistance animals and the zoo's residents.

But those areas will now be easier to explore for those with visual impairments with the zoo's release of iBeacons that allow visitors to tap into Bluetooth technology to navigate the grounds without their four-legged companions.

A Guide Dog goes for a spin at the Grand Prix to promote the new iBeacon technology.
Image: Guide Dogs Victoria

The iBeacons work with the use of the BlindSquare app that guides users in 22 languages around all areas of the zoo, including areas GPS can't reach.

Beacons are a small wireless device that emit a low-strength Bluetooth signal to a nearby enabled device, such as an iPhone, that allows the user to obtain relevant information about their surroundings.

The technology is funded under the National Disability Insurance Scheme and was originally trialled on Victoria's Public Transport system. The technology was also successfully used at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.

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Contact the author: ncarroll@networkten.com.au