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VRATE 2018 - New Tech to change travel for the blind

Nikki
VRATE 2017 Magnifier Logo.

Game-Changing New Tech Featured at Arizona’s Longest Running Technology Expo

PHOENIX — Drivers in Glendale are sure to notice many people with white canes and guide dogs on Friday, November 16 near the Glendale Civic Center. The Vision Rehabilitation & Assistive Technology Expo (VRATE) is entering its 22nd year, making it the longest running and largest expo of its type in the Southwest.

“Join us for a unique event to showcase new technology, ideas, and presentations for individuals with vision loss, blindness or combined vision and hearing loss. 2018 will showcase some of the most innovative technology the blind have seen at VRATE so far,” said Nikki Jeffords, President of the Board of Directors for VRATE and Rehabilitation Training & Outreach Specialist at the National Research & Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision.

VRATE 2018 will host its first ever technology-enabled scavenger hunt, sponsored by Foresight Augmented Reality (FAR). Participants will follow directions to find and visit five nearby FAR accessible locations for a chance for prizes! The route will be relatively simple and incorporate five local businesses. The path is specifically designed utilizing FAR Bluetooth beacon technology paired to a VRATE attendee’s smart phone using the FAR Vision app for an interactive experience.

“Our goal is to encourage people to get out and be mobile, and this scavenger hunt is a perfect way to utilize technology for that purpose. This is a way to show the community around Glendale, and Arizona, that the blind and visually impaired enjoy going out and doing the same things everyone else does,” said Jordan Moon, VRATE Board member and Community Relations Specialist at SAAVI Services for the Blind.

This year, VRATE will focus on innovative tech that has never been featured at this expo before. One example is the Foresight Augmented Reality (FAR) system. Bluetooth technology is changing the way the blind interact with their surroundings. FAR Accessible locations, like those participating in the VRATE Scavenger hunt, are increasing in locations all over the country. The FAR system provides indoor and outdoor navigation with much greater accuracy than GPS along with contextual information, all through audio, to enable greater engagement with the locations. For the first time, technology will assist in directing VRATE attendees from place to place around Glendale Civic Center (in addition to the traditionally wonderful human volunteers).

VRATE attendees are encouraged to download the free FAR Vision app on Google Play or the App store before the conference. Any issues or questions may be directed to contact@foresightar.com.

The VRATE Board of Directors would especially like to thank the Department of Economic Security (DES) for their support. As one of the event’s largest stakeholders, DES will support VRATE through the involvement of three DES programs, onsite interpreters, the print costs for event programs and signage, and the use DES video projectors and laptops.

“For 22 years, DES has been honored to support VRATE and its effort to provide Arizonans with vision loss and blindness an opportunity to learn about the plethora of resources available to enhance their quality of life,” said DES Director Michael Trailor.

For many people new to blindness, VRATE is often the first expo of its kind they attend. Although VRATE has a focus on technology, all relevant blind services will provide information such as the DES’s Vocational Rehabilitation employment training program.

VRATE 2018 Keynote Program features three speakers (with very different backgrounds) who share the same eye condition, Retinitis Pigmentosa. Each speaker will relate their particular story of vision loss, and success found in their respective fields.

2018 Keynote Program Speakers are:
- Arizona’s own Michael Armstrong, Blind Mountaineer/Health and Wellness instructor for the blind.

- Bill Boules highly credentialed 22-year blindness rehabilitation professional and advocate for the blind also well known for his trainings and social media presence.

- Sean Callagy, Founder & President of Callagy Law (with offices in NJ, AZ, NY, & FL) who is one of only two lawyers in the United States to have 2 Top 100 Jury Verdicts between 2014-2016, including the Top AZ Jury Verdict of 2016. He accomplished all of this with a degenerative eye condition— Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP).

VRATE is being held from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm on Friday, November 16th, 2018 at the Glendale Civic Center, 5750 West Glenn Drive, Glendale, Arizona 85301. It is free to attend. We ask that attendees preregister at www.vrate.org

- VRATE is seeking sighted volunteers for the event. If you are interested in learning how to be a sighted guide or help at am info booth- please email: Michael “Big Dog” Abell at bigdog4744@gmail.com.

- Also if you have any technology to donate to other blind people in need, such as eyeglasses, magnifiers, mobility devices, talking machines etc. please bring them to the VRATE event or email us at njeffords@colled.msstate.edu

For more information about VRATE, please visit our website at www.vrate.org

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For press inquiaries contact Ben Fox: fox.ben1@gmail.com, 602-303-2747

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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