Fresh off the heels of a large presence at CSUN, AIRA has announced they are expanding to new countries this spring.
AIRA has posted a form on their website looking for pilot participants for service in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Participants will be notified by April 15.
In addition to the expansion, this gives the distinct possibility of expanded service hours in the U.S. since AIRA agents in other countries could feasibly pick up calls when the U.S. agents are away. AIRA has not confirmed this possibility as of the time of this post.
For more about the latest with AIRA, you can listen to our podcast with Joe and Greg Stilson
I used taxis and paratransit for years and more recently Uber and Lyft. Before GPS, drivers typically were excellent at reading maps and creating routes. Today, when the GPS stops functioning, the drivers are frustrated, even in a panic. I often need to pull out my phone to get driving directions for them. Though Aira and similar services will improve our independence, my fear is we will begin to loos our inate ability to figure out things on our own. I can shop, explore, pay bills and run errands requesting occasional help from a sighted person that happens to be nearby. For example, I might ask if this is the aisle where the carrots are, or if the building entrance is behind me or straight ahead. I love my iPHONE, with all its accessible apps, but it is a convenience, not a necessity. We have all experienced this scenario I am sure -- you are told you should have brought a sighted person with you because you are having trouble finding a staircase, or you need to fill out a print only form. Will this be a requirement some day that you will not be able to participate in some venture unless you come equipped with remote sighted assistance? Will we blind people one day be in a panic, like the modern taxi driver when his GPS refuses to work? I hope not.
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J.J. Meddaugh is an experienced technology writer and computer enthusiast. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University with a major in telecommunications management and a minor in business. When not writing for Blind Bargains, he enjoys travel, playing the keyboard, and meeting new people.