Sun, Dec 30, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Shopping mall app for visually impaired launched

Staff writer, with CNA

A free mobile application that can read out the floor guide of a shopping mall in southern Taiwan has been unveiled recently with the aim of helping the visually impaired live more independently, a local group said yesterday.

Soon after the Pingtung Global Mall opened on Dec. 15, engineers and programmers from Chunghwa Telecom Co, the nation’s biggest telecom carrier, and Tamkang University jointly unveiled the first-ever app for visually impaired shoppers.

Using the app, visually impaired people can easily gain access to the latest information about the shopping mall, said Eric Yang public relations director of the Taipei-based Technology Development Association for the Disabled and one of the project’s main initiators.

They can download the app onto their smart phone, and once arriving at the mall, use it to find out what each floor has to offer.

The app can read out information the user wants to know and help users locate the stores they wish to visit, Yang said.

“In its initial stage, the app is the second generation of our previous ‘mobile assistant,’ released in June, and we’re still working on further improvements,” Yang said.

At this stage, the shopping app provides a guide for the floor plan of the mall, Yang said, adding that the next step is to add information about the products and prices at each store, especially restaurants or stalls at the food court, which he said was more essential to most shoppers.

There are over 60,000 visually impaired people in Taiwan, according to government figures. Yang is hoping the visually impaired can lead a more independent life with such apps.

“It’s just a beginning. We aim to cooperate with as many stores and restaurants as possible,” he said.

Yang also plans to work with convenience stores in the near future.

The app only runs on the Android operating system, and free workshops will be held to help those interested in learning how to install and operate the software, the association said.

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