Caecus is a Social Enterprise and was established in 2009.
The company was actually formed when I spotted a sign in a local shopping centre above a leaflet dispenser which read ‘Information for our blind and visually impaired customers’. Inside the dispenser was a leaflet in Braille.
I would normally have just walked right by it, but that day I stopped. The first thing that struck me was, “How is a blind person going to read the sign and find the dispenser?” This started me thinking about all the other Braille signs and how I had NEVER once seen a blind person trying to read one, even those you see on toilet doors.
I did a bit of research and found a couple of interesting things about Visual Impairment and Braille generally, that I would like to share with you.
- There are about 2 million partially sighted people in the UK
- Some 180,000 of these are totally blind.
- Only 20% of blind people can actually read Braille (and this figure is only 8% for the under 25’s)
I had the same reaction to this information you have probably just had. So WHY do we have all these Braille signs that no one can find in the first place and will have difficulty reading if they ran into one? The answer is …… there is not currently a viable alternative to a system that was first developed almost two Centuries ago.
So here at Caecus, we started to look at alternative ways to get location specific information to anyone who needed it, especially the blind, which like Braille would be free at the point of use, and didn’t involve learning a new language. Obviously the smart phone was going to be key.
So the answer was simple right? A free smart phone “App”, GPS location information and some data.
It turns out that most of the places you might have used a Braille sign are either inside buildings, under cover, inside shopping centres or underground and the one thing these locations have in common is that you can’t get a reliable GPS signal.
After further research, which was conducted with the help of a number of helpful Universities, we eventually solved the problem. We can now identify any location using a specially designed, low cost Bluetooth radio tag, which uses a clever array of aerials to broadcast a unique ID signal in specific directions and to a set distance.
Just think of the Onsite tag as a kind of electronic ‘QR’ code, which automatically ‘talks’ to your phone and you sort of get the picture.