Helping Norfolk’s blind and visually impaired to be more independent

Norfolk's blind and visually impaired people have been trying out a new type of 'sat nav' device thanks to an association's new equipment centre.

The hi-tech piece of equipment has been specially designed to help people with limited or no sight to navigate their way around streets.

The talking device can tell people where they are at the touch of a button, as well as automatically announcing street names, intersections, businesses and landmarks and has different modes for on foot or on a bus.

This week the Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind (NNAB) was able to invite its members to come and try out the new Trekker Breeze at an exhibition in its purpose-built Bradbury Centre, in Beckham Place, Norwich, which was opened by the Queen last year.

Dorothy Bowen, the equipment and information centre manager for the NNAB, said: 'Our role is to ensure that visually impaired people in Norfolk have access to up-to-date equipment, and to be able to get companies to come here and show them what they can do is really, really important.

'It gives people choice, otherwise the only alternative for many is to go to the Sight Villages in Birmingham or London.'

Chris Maule-Oatway, an equipment centre advisor for the NNAB, has had his Trekker Breeze for two years, and says it has helped him enormously, particularly because he can programme places into it that he regularly visits. Also many normally-produced satellite navigation devices use touch screens, which he is unable to use as he needs tactile buttons.

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The 61-year-old, from south Norwich, said: 'I find it useful to tell me first of all where I am and then the names of the roads I'm passing. I've learnt about roads I never knew existed or didn't know their names.

'The one aspect I didn't appreciate until I started using it was how helpful it has been when on the bus. I don't have to concentrate on things like the movement of the bus to know where I am any more and it makes bus rides a much more relaxing experience.'

For more information visit www.nnab.org.uk or call 01603 629558.

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