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Phone App Guide System
Filling a 'Special' Need

By John M. Willliams

AbleLink Technologies has released Wayfinder, a smartphone-based software program that enables people with intellectual and other cognitive disabilities to take the bus or light rail so they can be independent.

Wayfinder provides personalized guidance to help individuals successfully navigate a transportation route using audio and visual cues it generates based on a person's GPS location. Wayfinder can help users walk to a bus stop and take a bus to school or work, and then follow a similar route back home. An optional tracking feature is available as well that allows a family member, caregiver or other person to track the exact location of a Wayfinder user in real time via instant messaging and Google Maps.

Being able to freely move about the community using public transportation allows people who do not drive to get to work, visit friends and family, and go shopping or to the movies whenever they choose, without having to be dependent on others to get from one place to another. There are many organizations that provide support to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and travel training typically is a high priority because of the enormous effect it can have on improving the quality of life of people with special needs.

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An example of such an organization is ARCA (www.ARCAOpeningDoors.org) of Albuquerque, N.M., which provides community-based services, including travel training and transportation support, to more than 600 children and adults with developmental disabilities. The organization recently began a pilot project in which Wayfinder is used by the individuals it serves.

“ARCA's mission for 54 years has been to create opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities,” said Ed Kaul, ARCA's community services director.

Kaul is thrilled with this new opportunity to provide people with tools for increased independence. Taking a bus, alone, to the grocery store and returning home might sound like a simple task for some people; for others, it is a freedom only dreamt of. ARCA’s pilot program with AbleLink Technologies has the potential to significantly improve the quality of life for many people.

Wayfinder was developed through a research project funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research as well as through projects funded by the National Institutes of Health. A description of the initial research was published in the December 2010 edition of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, a publication of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

Wayfinder can be used as a stand-alone application on selected GPS-equipped smartphones and is available directly from AbleLink Technologies Inc. (www.ablelinktech.com). Additionally, the software can be added to mobile product suites (Pocket Endeavor Suite or Community Integration Suite) to work in concert with AbleLink’s other programs designed for people with cognitive disabilities, such as a simplified scheduling program or picture-based cell phone, which work seamlessly with Wayfinder.

The Wayfinder sells for $799.

AbleLink Technologies (www.ablelinktech.com) has been a pioneer in the field of cognitive support technology since 1997. Daniel K. Davies, founder and president, began working in the area of cognitive technology in 1991, developing straightforward electronic task-prompting systems for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

AbleLink provides an array of desktop and mobile applications that allow individuals with intellectual and other cognitive disabilities, or those with age-related conditions, to access many everyday technologies, including cell phones, e-mail and the Internet. AbleLink’s extensive research and development work has resulted in cognitive support technologies that promote self-determination and independence on the job, in the home, at school and in the community.

John M. Williams can be reached at jwilliams@atechnews.com. His website is www.atechnews.com.


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