CapMac Launches Here For You Initiative, Putting Austin on the Accessibility Map

CapMac, the Capital Mac Users Group in Austin Texas, has launched a major project to improve accessibility for the visually impaired in their home city. The popular MUG, led by our own Nancy Carroll Gravley, has been working for months on Here For You, an initiative that taps the power of crowd-sourced geolocation data to give the visually impaired the information they need to get exactly where they're going.  

Sometimes you get directions someplace and your iPhone does a good job of telling you how to get there, but sometimes it only gets you in the area. For someone who can stand in the middle of a vast parking lot and look around for clues, it's not a big deal if the GPS doesn't get you all the way to the front door. For someone who is visually impaired, this can be inconvenient at best (having to ask someone for help) or a deal breaker at worst (stuck someplace alone with no idea where to go).

CapMac - Here For You

CapMac - Here For You

CapMac determined the solution to this; stop using an address and start using precise latitude and longitude as an endpoint for navigation. This would be great except that nothing in Contacts, where addresses are stored, allows for a meaningful way to add this information. If it's in the Notes field, there's no useful way to feed that to Maps to get a more accurate set of directions.

Enter myLocation, an app that crafts a latitude/longitude specific URL which is recognized by Maps, allowing for much more specific directions. If the front door is on the side of the building, or all the shops in the strip mall have the same address, this isn't an issue anymore.

CapMac is launching Here for You, an initiative to start cataloging common locations and making that information available in vCards for anyone to use. For someone new to Austin, or someone who can't look around them to gather additional data to help them navigate, this is a really useful bit of tech. CapMac will be accepting location data for a variety of common locations in the Austin area (to start), and that data will be curated and verified before being shared publicly.

I've spoken with a number of people about the impressive ease of use that comes with VoiceOver and other assistive technologies built into iOS, making it a truly useful device for visually impaired people. Adding *precise* location data to contacts just makes it even more useful, and even keeps people safe. I can't wait until this initiative spreads and precise lat/long data becomes a common piece of information with addresses, directing people to doors instead of parking lots.