Jun 5, 2024 - News

This app is helping blind people see the splendor of Colorado's state parks

A woman in sunglasses with a mobility cane stands outside and holds her phone up to a state park sign.

Theresa Montano,  senior solutions architect for the Governor's Office of Information Technology's Technology Accessibility Program team, uses the Aira app at Chatfield State Park. Photo: Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife

A digital tool is opening the eyes of blind adventurers to the beauty of Colorado's 42 state parks.

How it works: Aira, a mobile app, connects your smartphone or computer camera to professionally-trained virtual agents who offer real-time visual interpretation of the world around you.

  • That includes help with navigation, signs and landmarks, and reading park brochures.
  • The app offers free 30-minute sessions at a time, with the possibility to call back for additional complimentary sessions if needed.

What they're saying: This is a step toward ensuring "everyone feels welcome at our parks," and making them more "equitable and inclusive," Colorado Parks and Wildlife director Jeff Davis said in a statement.

Caveat: Because the app relies on video, a stable cellular connection is required — which can vary widely from park to park.

The big picture: The expansion of Aira at Colorado's parks — in addition to its availability at other state-operated facilities, like the Capitol — marks the latest effort to make public lands more accessible to people with disabilities.

  • In recent years at least two Colorado state parks, including Staunton and Ridgeway, have introduced track chairs that let people with mobility challenges traverse trails.

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