Saturday, May 20th, the WCBNY was back at our pre-pandemic meeting place, the Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation in White Plains, for the very first time. It felt good to meet in person again, and we had a very good program presented to us by the CEO of AYES, Michael Janssen, who introduced us to the OKO app, which can use an iPhone to turn regular pedestrian signals into accessible pedestrian signals at no cost to the user.

Even though we had a nice group of members present, including a social period with light snacks before the presentation kicked off, we still offered a hybrid experience, allowing members to come to the meting on Zoom, as has been our recent norm. Michael, in fact, did the OKO presentation that way.

Michael provided some additional information, post-meeting, that he asked be made available to our group. Here are links to additional instructions on the OKO app, and to O&M instructor materials.

And here again is the link to download the app.

Our meeting included some interesting background information and an extensive question and answer session. We’d encourage interested parties to catch one of these if you missed ours. There will be more, we’re reasonably certain.

While the OKO app isn’t necessarily a stand-alone solution, and it certainly isn’t  one-size-fits all, it is a remarkable tool that can be used in conjunction with the aids we are already using, like dogs and white canes, to help blind and visually-impaired individuals cross streets safely.

Here are some functional highlights:

The app is available for free on the Apple app store.

To use it, just launch the app and point the back-facing camera toward an intersection. The app uses the camera and artificial intelligence to locate the pedestrian signal and inform the user, via audio, haptic, and visual feedback, about the status of the signal.

There are distinct cues for a walk signal, a don’t walk signal, and a countdown timer.

The ongoing information from the app also helps to minimize users veering of course as they are crossing.

The app is not a replacement for a dog or a cane. It is meant to enhance a user’s ability to cross with whatever other aids they normally use.

The app does not require connectivity to work.

The company is still aggressively working to improve the app, and even has a built-in way for users to send feedback to help with that effort.