From: Brian Buhrow (
Date: Wed May 31 1995 - 23:16:56 PDT


Sent by: Clive Lansink
Subject: Electronic travel aids
I wish to add more comments to the debate on electronic travel aids, and respond
to some of the more recent comments made on this topic.

With regard to cost, yes it is desirable that any aid of this kind is as cheap
as possible. Nevertheless, given the sophistication involved, it is not
surprizing that this type of equipment can be expensive. But expense is
relative. Some people may feel that even expensive travel aids are worth buying
because of the assistance they can provide. After all, the Kay spectacles are
still in production, so somebody must be buying them even today. Perhaps this
is a bit like the situation with braille displays. They too are still
relatively expensive, but they are becoming cheaper as production techniques
improve. But even while they are expensive, for some peole they are absolutely
worth the money.

The other point that I feel strongly about is that we shouldn't think of
electronic travel aids as a replacement for the white cane. I myself am a
confirmed white cane user. I do not feel my white cane training is inadequate
and I have walked with my cane as my soul travel aid in quite a number of
different countries and strange areas. But an electronic travel aid can
significantly add to the information you receive about the environment you're
walking in. It helps you anticipate a situation from a distance of several
meters, and deal with it before your cane knows about it. To me, this is good
and adds to the dignity of my travel.

Curtis's suggestion of establishing agreed criteria for a travel aid is a useful
one. However, we don't need to be sceptical about products we feel are designed
by sighted people in isolation from us. We should be open to all designs that
come along and be prepared to give them a chance to be evaluated by the end
user. I do believe that sometimes there are aids which may only satisfy a small
number of us, but for those people the aid can become an absolute necessity of
life. I refer again to my previous message and the example of the Optacon. I'm
not sure that the Optacon would even be designed today if we all sat down and
tried to specify a good reading aid. But I sure as hell wouldn't be without
mine, even though I also have an OCR scanner.

This has been a good and useful discussion.


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