Beacons boost city access

People with low vision or blindness can receive audio messages about potential obstacles in the central city thanks to new beacons along Bourke and Swanston streets.

We commissioned Guide Dogs Victoria to develop this project, which builds on the capabilities of the popular BlindSquare app to offer users more information about their surroundings.

The technology uses GPS and Bluetooth technology in the user’s phone to access messages from nearby beacons about intersections, public transport, construction work and bollards and more.

It is designed to complement other mobility aids such as a cane or guide dog.

Councillor Beverley Pinder, Chair of the People City portfolio, said this is the first major rollout of beacon technology in our public realm.

‘Melbourne is growing, and as our city changes it’s vital that we support people living with low vision, blindness or other disabilities to remain confident and independent getting around,’ Cr Pinder said.

‘We’re embracing new ways of communicating with residents and visitors to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to experience everything our wonderful city has to offer.’

New physical and virtual beacons have been placed at key locations, including major intersections, Melbourne Town Hall, City Library, Ross House and the Degraves Street underpass.

Councillor Philip Le Liu, Chair of the International Engagement portfolio, said the beacons will offer messages in 25 different languages.

‘This is a fantastic tool that will provide invaluable support to people with low vision, whether they are residents who speak a language other than English, or among the almost three million international tourists who visit Melbourne each year,’ Cr Le Liu said.

Ongoing user testing is helping us improve and analyse the system. As beacon technology improves, we hope to use it in more areas of the city.

For more information, visit Getting around.