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Smart navigation

A team of apprentices successfully adapt technology to help wheelchair users navigate their school

Royal Blind School student

A piece of sensory technology has been adapted by an aerospace company to help blind and visually impaired people navigate around school.

The tool has been developed by apprentices at Leonardo in Edinburgh in order to support wheelchair users at the Royal Blind School to navigate to their classrooms.

At present, the school uses wall mounted signifiers to indicate which class room the pupil is in, such as a paint brush by the art class.

However, those using computerised wheelchairs, which follow a Smart platform around the school, rely on a staff member to take the signifier off the wall for them to use.

Now, apprenticeships have developed radio frequency tabs that can be positioned at places on the Smart tracks. A sensor attached to the platform tracks is then able to pick up signals from the tabs, processing the information and announcing the classroom that the student is outside.

Royal Blind School student

The technology is similar to what is used in central locking keys, and passports.

Macaulay Jarrett, one of the four apprentices behind the technology, explained: “We decided we wanted to use a friendly familiar voice of one of the school staff for the sensor to make the pupils feel more relaxed and at home. We visited the school and it was quite amazing to see how the pupils are able to manage and we feel proud to work with technology that will make them feel even more independent.” 

The apprentices hope that following a trial of the technology, it will be used in a wider capacity by the school to give wheelchair-using students more independence.

The work of these apprentices is being highlighted as Scotland marks Scottish Apprenticeship Week, which aims to celebrate the benefits apprenticeships bring to businesses, individuals and the economy.

Occupational therapist at Edinburgh Royal Blind School, Claire Mackenzie, who approached Leonardo initially, said: “It’s been a great experience to work alongside the Leonardo apprentices and helpful to get their engagement expertise in being able to move forward a project that will give a new dimension to the use of the Smart platform.”