The Wits campus navigation challenge calls on innovaters and enterpreneurs to develop devices for students and staff with mobility disability.
Students and staff with mobility disabilities are hopeful that the Wits personal navigator challenge will assist them in getting around Wits campuses.
The challenge, initiated by the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JSCE), was launched early last week.
“Although Wits conforms to fantastic standards in terms of disabled access, with lifts and ramps everywhere, someone who is blind may not know how to get around or find the lifts and ramps which are useful for them,” said Director and CEO Professor Barry Dwolatzky.
He said they are expecting ideas ranging from devices that can be worn, attached or planted in as beacons around campus to send signals.
Second-year BA student, Lehlogonolo Senong, who is restricted to his wheelchair said that it would be useful to have a device that could guide him, especially since some of Wits venues are unknown to him.
He said he often had to use back (goods) entrances to enter buildings, because that’s where the ramps are. “Why do people with disabilities have to use the back entrances? It takes me longer and I have to really plan my time,” he said.
He added that devices that could send instant alerts of alternatives when doors or entrances are closed, would be useful.
Head of the Disability Rights Unit, Dr Anlia Pretorious said she was very excited to partner with the JSCE on this project.
She understands that it will provide staff and students facing mobility disabilities a sense of independence and they will be able to take care of themselves, especially in a new environment.
“All new students struggle at the beginning of the year, but you times it by 10 or by 20 for a student who can’t see, and who also needs to find entrances and ramps, because in many instances, the wheelchair entrance is not where the other entrances are. We do have maps, but you new and you need to find your way, but if you blind you can’t read the map in any case”, Pretorius said.
Andrew Sam, an adaptive technologist at DRU who provides mobility training to the disabled, said it’s also a safety issue, especially in cases of emergencies or protests when entrances are closed.
He said the device could be used to communicate and arrange with students in the event of changes.
Professor Dwolatzky said Wits was a test bed for the winning idea, and if successful it would extend to different communities and cities.
The winning idea will get opportunities to work in the JSCE techno hub and abroad (UK, USA,Canada, Netherlands and India).
To participate, go to http://www.tshimologong.joburg/challenge. The competition closes on March 3, 2017.