Visually impaired and blind people in Antwerp can now use the OKO app to cross intersections with traffic lights. The app, from the Antwerp company AYES, ‘reads,’ using your smartphone’s camera, whether the light is red or green, and thus lets you know when it is safe to cross.
Flemish Minister of Equal Opportunities Bart Somers, who went to see the project in action, hopes the app can eventually be used throughout Flanders.
The city of Antwerp is a so-called 'mentor city' in terms of accessibility within the 'Plan Samenleven' rolled out last Autumn by Somers. The city says it is committed to becoming more accessible to all, and taking the visually impaired and blind into account, both in the city’s buildings and in the public domain, is an important part of this.
The OKO app previously received €75,000 in support from the city to break through internationally and to ensure its further development. Now Antwerp is also offering licenses for the app for its visually impaired and blind residents, as OKO is not free.
“We've created a payment model where governments refund users’ licenses,” said Michiel Janssen of AYES.
“When this type of great initiative is taken, the idea is not to keep reinventing the wheel,” Minister Somers noted. “We are trying to roll them out further to all of Flanders. This way, step by step, we are making sure that Flanders becomes more accessible and inclusive, especially to people with disabilities.”
An OKO update that reads the line and final destination of each streetcar and bus as it arrives, so that the blind and visually impaired can know which ones to board, is scheduled to be launched soon.