The Trekker Breeze

February 8th, 2012

The Trekker Breeze is a new orientation aid that pupils of St Vincent’s have been utilising as part of their Individual Mobility Programmes.  It is a similar technology to that of satellite navigation used in cars, in that the geographic position of the Trekker device is located and announced to the user audibly. However, the Trekker differs in that it doesn’t in itself direct or navigate – when used on an outdoor route, it informs of significant features in the immediate vicinity of the user.  This is beneficial in terms of mobility and orientation training as it still demands a certain proficiency from the user, requiring a pre-established level of route memory and ‘mental-mapping’.

For the user, the Trekker adds understanding and interest to a journey – by pressing the ‘explore’ or ‘info’ buttons, the device will provide details on the current position, such as a house number nearby, the road name, or multiple road names at a junction/intersection.  A former teacher at St Vincent’s, himself visually impaired and a user of the Trekker, remarked on the benefits of this function, in that he had recently been surprised to learn of the existence of a road that he passed everyday on his way to work for thirty years, and had been totally unaware of it until recently when the Trekker had informed him so.

Another feature of it, and of great value to mobility lessons, is the facility it has for creating personalised/customised routes.  A ‘record’ function on the Trekker allows the user to place a marker at where they are stood (becoming an announced ‘land-mark’ for subsequent journeys on the same route), and to leave a message/direction for themselves e.g. “turn left onto Grange Avenue and locate second lamp-post”.  This process can be repeated at multiple points on the route, and is then stored internally on an SD card for future journeys, and announced audibly when the user nears that point.  This can greatly assist in achieving an independent and successful completion of a journey.

The Trekker is small and relatively light and can be carried by hand, clipped to clothing or worn by an adjustable lanyard to keep hands free for long cane/symbol cane use.

Robert, one of our post-16 pupils, has greatly enjoyed the use of the Trekker and is currently undertaking the process of recording his own ‘land-marks’ and directions.  Robert said of the Trekker  “It adds to my independence because I can record my own directions and choose my own landmarks.  I liked being able to keep my hands free so I can still use my long cane as well.  I liked it so much I am actually going to get one for myself as a combined Christmas and birthday present”.