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Posted: 6/16/2015

Macular Degeneration Foundation Sparks Innovation Using Indoor GPS to Aid Blind

The Macular Degeneration Foundation (MDF), the nation’s oldest and most respected patient support and research promotion organization heralded the success of its first deployment of a groundbreaking indoor GPS system that helps blind and severely visually impaired people navigate conventions and large group meetings with ease. The system premiered to rave reviews at the Americans with Disability Act annual meeting in Altanta, Georgia, May 10 – 13.

The system uses next-generation low-power indoor Bluetooth beacons that are placed at all points of interest and importance in a meeting venue, and constantly communicate their relative position with an app on users phones. The app issues clear voice prompts to guide users around obstacles and toward a desired destination in the venue.

MDF President Liz Trauernicht conceived the idea and the Foundation fully funded its development by a collaborative team including the equipment vendor and long-time Macular Degeneration Foundation-supported partner Dan Roberts . “Dan did a phenomenal job of implementing this idea and we are very proud of his hard work and diligence,” commented Liz Trauernicht. Dan Roberts, who heads up the MD Support organization, helped customize and test the application and deploy it at the convention site.

MD Foundation will be funding its deployment at five more conventions through October. Future participating organizations are American Council of the Blind, Association for Blinded Veterans, Guide Dogs for the Blind, California Council of the Blind, and Pennsylvania Council of the Blind.

“The idea was to create an application of immediate value to persons with visual disability”, explained Liz Trauernicht, adding: “Our mission is to seed and spur innovation in this important field, with the hopes that these efforts will become self-sustaining and help to meet the global needs of the growing low vision community. The Macular Degeneration Foundation actively supports promising medical therapies for this disease which include stem cell and gene therapy, but while waiting for these regenerative therapies to become available, it’s important for us to work to enhance the lives of millions of people with low vision problems.”

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