Wellington couple first in NZ to test 'revolutionary' app for the blind

A blind couple in Wellington is trialling a visual-aid app from the United States that they say is "revolutionary".

Aira connects blind people to a visual interpreter, who helps them with daily tasks, and it's also helping one user pursue a new career.

While Wellington's harbourside market is crowded and noisy - making it somewhere Bonnie and Jonathan Mosen would usually avoid - with the help of their new app, they're giving it a go.

"We can wander around and have a voice in our head, effectively, telling us what we would be seeing if we could see - and that is so incredibly revolutionary and liberating," Mr Mosen says.

Aira is a phone app that connects blind people - known as "explorers" - to a trained visual interpreter in the US. The agents look through smart glasses or through a phone and describe what they are seeing.

Aside from helping them navigate unfamiliar territory, the agents can photograph what they're seeing - a big plus for Ms Mosen.

She's enrolled in a multimedia journalism course at Whitireia and is currently learning photo journalism.

"The iPhone and iPad, you can take pictures with them, but you're still what I laughingly call 'flying blind' - I'm not able to see what I am shooting," she says.

But when connected to Aira, a sighted person can see what she is shooting. She's already put it into practice, covering Wellington's massive street festival, Cuba Dupa, for her school's news website.

"I was able to get out in Cuba Dupa as a reporter for Newswire, on my own."

It's an independence Ms Mosen hopes will enable her to pursue a career as a reporter, and an independence this couple hopes other visually impaired New Zealanders can experience.

And others may be in luck, with Aira looking to officially extend its service to this part of the world.


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