Making walking routes in Bedfordshire accessible

Bedfordshire Sight Loss Council are working to improve the accessibility to Central Bedfordshire’s Right of Way network. 

Earlier this year, Bedfordshire Sight Loss Council met with representatives from Central Bedfordshire to try out a new walking route through Millennium Country Park, a site owned and operated by the Forest of Marston Vale. At the meeting, Sight Loss Council members discussed accessibility and suggestions for any improvements. 

Watch our video

We spoke to Rights of Way officer Lindsay Measures about Central Bedfordshire Council’s ongoing work with Bedfordshire Sight Loss Council:

Microsoft Soundscape experiment

Among their recommendations was to utilise the Microsoft Soundscape app to map out routes so that blind and partially sighted people might be able to navigate the routes independently. 

“Microsoft Soundscape is a product from Microsoft Research that explores the use of innovative audio-based technology to enable people to build a richer awareness of their surroundings, thus becoming more confident and empowered to get around. Unlike step-by-step navigation apps, Soundscape uses 3D audio cues to enrich ambient awareness and provide a new way to relate to the environment. It allows you to build a mental map and make personal route choices while being more comfortable within unfamiliar spaces.” – www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/product/soundscape/
 

SLC members met with Central Bedfordshire council representatives at Millennium Country Park last month to experiment with the app. SLC members used the Soundscape app to map out a route, using beacons to mark various landmarks and hazards along the route.

SLC members then retook the route and, by utilising the app, could navigate the route independently — this included finding and passing through a cattle gate unencumbered!

We were able to document the live experiment on social media, where you can see Hubert and Masuma navigate the route utilising the Soundscape route.  

This summer, Marston Vale Trust is looking to organise a guided walk with Bedfordshire Sight Loss Council. Details about the event will be publicised on our events page, so stay tuned!

Engagement manager Masuma Ali said:

“We’re delighted that Bedfordshire Sight Loss Council and Central Bedfordshire Council members were able to visit Millennium Country Park. There is such a great interest in getting an initiative set up to make green spaces more accessible.

As the landowner and operator of the site, it’s great to know that our park can be enjoyed by blind and partially sighted people already, and we’ll certainly be taking the advisements from Hubert and the CBC team on board as we make ongoing improvements to our site, in particular with regards to accessibility.”

 

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