CNIB Plan to Create Canada’s Most Accessible Neighbourhood

CNIB's "ShopTalk: BlindSquare Enabled" aims to make the Yonge and St. Clair neighbourhood in Toronto the most accessible in Canada, improving access for individuals who are blind or partially sighted. The project was created with funding through the Barrier Buster project from the Rick Hansen Foundation, the help of staff and volunteers at the CNIB Community Hub, and the support of local Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue businesses.

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The Barrier Buster project is intended to help individuals who are blind or partially sighted to navigate the neighbourhood safely and confidently, and it will also provide an opportunity for a wider conversation around continuing to work to make Toronto accessible to all its citizens.

On a practical level, small (7cm x 2cm) battery-powered devices, known as ‘Beacons’ will be placed inside the doorways of local shops and businesses. The Beacons will be programmed with information about each business and will silently ‘communicate’ with the BlindSquare app through low energy Bluetooth signals. They will allow users to know what is in each Beacon-enabled shop or restaurant they enter, the layout of the business space and other practical information.

The project was launched with the grand opening of the CNIB Community Hub on June 5, 2017, an innovative, accessible space where community members with sight loss can come together and receive social and emotional support and learn new skills.

In the roll-out of the next phase, 200 Beacons will be placed in businesses along Yonge Street, just south of St. Clair Avenue up to Heath Street. Area shops and restaurants that want to participate in the ShopTalk: BlindSquare Enabled initiative will be able to do so at no-cost.