CHARLOTTE — A unique program has made its way to Charlotte. It gives people who are visually impaired the chance to take in their surroundings through sound.
Life for 11-year-old Ben Peterson has not been a walk in the park.
He has been completely blind his entire life.
Peterson said he relies on sound and his support cane to get around, except when he visits James Boyce Park in southeast Charlotte.
“Yeah, this is easy,” cheered Ben.
The Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department is the first in the state to offer a 3-D audio-based orienteering program.
“Basically, they’re able to explore and navigate a local park, a trail, safely and more independently,” explained Maddy Jones, recreation specialist for the county’s park and recreation department.
People with visual impairments at the park can download the Microsoft Soundscape app. It plays varying sounds in each ear to navigate users toward waypoints and through the park’s trail.
“The different pitches and varying tones indicate whether our participants are heading in the right direction or if they’re a little off,” said Jones.
Jennifer Weisner’s son, Hudson, can’t see trails but he can navigate using his other senses.
“Normally wide-open spaces like this are overwhelming to visual impairments but with the sound cues, he’s able to find targets and he really enjoys it and has a sense of accomplishment,” said Weisner. “He feels really good about himself when he’s able to find the targets and do things independently.”
The tones, beeps and bells give kids like Peterson the feeling of freedom and the sense of independence.
Kids and adults can take part in the 3-D audio orienteering program in two areas of James Boyce Park. Plans are in the works to add it to Hornets Nest Park in the future.
Click here for more information on the services at the parks and rec department.
(Watch the video below: High school football player who is legally blind takes to the field)
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