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My experience with AIRA Visual Interpreter for the blind
11 March 2020
What is AIRA
AIRA is a visual interpreting service for people who are blind or vision impaired. It allows a person who is blind to receive visual assistance from a trained agent 24 hours a day seven days a week.
How is AIRA used?
AIRA is an application that is installed on a device running either IOS or Android operating systems. This is usually a phone; however, it could also be a tablet with a data connection and a camera. The user signs up for an AIRA plan which provides them a block of minutes to use each month. When the user requires help, they can open the app and start a call with an agent. If the user has an iPhone, they can also ask SIRI to make the call for them. Once connected the agent can see a live stream from the user’s phone camera and can provide the user information required.
A user can choose to purchase smart glasses that connect to the AIRA application for AU$399. These glasses come with a pocket WIFI device so that a user’s mobile phone data is not used for the live video stream. I have found that the addition of the glasses is one of the things that really sets AIRA apart from using other visual interpreting apps. I love being able to simply point my head in a certain direction and have something described to me or read out. It keeps my hands free to use my cane while moving around the community or typing on my computer.
What can AIRA agents do for you?
Agents can do more than just read and describe the environment. They have a variety of tools at their disposal to help their users. Some of these include:
- User’s GPS location and ability to access Google Maps to find routes and provide guidance when traveling
- TeamViewer to access a user’s computer and perform tasks such as filling forms, cropping pictures, and clicking on inaccessible items
- The ability to take pictures from a user’s camera and save them complete with description of the picture
- Ability to follow UBER rides to advise where drivers are and help a user locate their ride.
There is only one plan for AIRA in Australia costing $89 for 100 minutes. More minutes may be purchased for an additional fee if required and these additional minutes do not expire for 90 days. The cost of AIRA minutes is comparable to the price of a support worker on a weekday through NDIS so I believe that AIRA is great value for money, as support is available 24 hours a day anywhere that a user has access to their phone.
Things to be aware of when using AIRA
AIRA is a fantastic service but there are a few small things to be aware of. A user requires a good data connection in order for AIRA to work. This can be an issue in shopping centres where mobile coverage is poor or in rural areas. AIRA is not a substitute for a mobility aid such as a cane or guide dog and agents will not assist with navigation if you are not using your mobility device. If you are using smart glasses, you need to insure that both the smart glasses and the pocket WIFI are charged.
AIRA is an innovative way to get visual support when and where a user requires it. Agents can perform a variety of tasks for a user with the tools at their disposal. I personally find it value for money as I no longer need a support worker to assist with short tasks. Finally, AIRA has some great things in the pipeline such as the horizon controller with better glasses, battery life, and the ability to automatically read items using artificial intelligence. For more information please visit: https://aira.io/Australia