There are 253 million visually impaired people in the world. At least 50 million of them rely on the white cane, a simple tool primarily designed to provide ground-level obstacle detection.
Given all the advances in technology in recent years it’s great to see this now being applied to enhance visually impaired people’s mobility experience; WeWalk is a custom built navigation app and smart cane attachment designed to do just that. It has been awarded an Edison Gold Medal and is one of TIME’s best inventions of 2019 and was featured in media including CNN, BBC, Forbes, Bloomberg and El Pais. WeWALK has also received an honourable mention in World Changing Ideas, a major annual award by Fast Company that honours products, companies and designs that are pursuing innovation for the good of society.
By equipping the white cane with modern technology, it allows the user to access connected mobility services, including navigation, exploration, and public transport. The ergonomic attachment fits on top of any white cane. WeWalk can detect above-ground obstacles by using a front-mounted ultrasonic sensor, warning the user with vibration feedback.
From cane to cereal, we heard of a similar innovation by Kellogg Europe on the launch of inclusive packaging for blind and visually impaired shoppers. Each box features an “on-pack code” that will be detected via the NaviLens smartphone app. Special K will be the first brand in the roll-out across their portfolio.
Another category example is Braille Ale by West Side Brewing they’ve created an initiative partnership with the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI). They’ve launched a beer can with raised braille it’s available in six-packs and a portion of the sales go onto benefit CABVI.
Our final example is the French beauty company L’Occitane which have been considering the needs of the visually impaired since the 1990s. The founder Olivier Baussan noticed a blind customer in one of their stores feeling the bottles to discover the product. The observation motivated Baussan to put braille on most of the company’s packaging since 1997.
Innovations come in different forms & flavours but these ones are properly rooted in societal inclusiveness. So yes, we are all in!