‘Smart paint' crosswalks could help visually-impaired in Tampa

Tampa Tech City

TAMPA, Fla. (WTSP) – The visually-impaired in Tampa could soon have new technology in the form of “smart paint” and “smart canes” to help them safely navigate crosswalks in the city.

“[The technology] can be used to pick up information through sensors and communicate that through a cane,” said Jean Duncan, director transportation and stormwater services for the City of Tampa. “If we have a visually-impaired person, that information could go into ear buds and a device to communicate to that person how they're walking along the sidewalk."

Traditional canes don’t eliminate the spatial awareness challenges the visually-impaired face, but a cane with sensors that interacts with paint on the roads could keep those with eyesight problems safe by directing them to stay within the crosswalk.

“It’s very easy for me to veer trying to listen to traffic, what’s coming in front as opposed to what’s coming on the side.” said Louise Peyton, who’s been blind since birth. “I think it would be very interesting to be able to maintain a straight navigation through the crosswalk.”

City officials are working closely with the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind on this new initiative, which could launch in a pilot phase in the next few months. Jennifer Brooks, rehabilitation manager for the Tampa Lighthouse, says for the first phase, they would likely install some of the smart paint in crosswalks outside of the group’s location on Platt Street as well as a few other locations around downtown area.

“Somebody who’s visually impaired needs to make sure they are aligned to cross the street correctly so they are facing the right direction before they even step out into the street,” said Brooks.

Duncan estimates the smart paint will be of low cost to the city, but it is the smart cane that will pose a cost to the visually-impaired.

The technology is being developed by a team of researchers at The Ohio State University, Mississippi Valley University and Western Michigan University.

Duncan says this project is one component of many Tampa hopes to integrate into its “Smart City” initiative, which is a vision to integrate technology into public spaces as a means of making the city safer and more user-friendly.
 

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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