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Free service in Milwaukee provides app-based guidance -- creating more independence for the blind

Free AIRA service for the blind and low vision was made accessible at Milwaukee's airport back in November through a new partnership between AIRA and Mitchell airport. Now, the service is expanding to include a number of other Milwaukee County buildings and locations; an initiative led by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

Listen to the audio story below to learn how AIRA will help Milwaukee’s blind and low vision community navigate through Milwaukee County buildings and other locations like the Milwaukee County Zoo and the Domes.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele continues to push for disability reform. After welcoming AIRA to the Milwaukee airport, Abele realized how important it would be to make AIRA’s services available in more Milwaukee spaces. This year, the service can be found at a number of buildings visited by Milwaukeeans daily.

The technology is used through an app and with smart glasses. When a person connects to the app and glasses, an AIRA professional is able to see what they see through their glasses. From there, people receive details about what is physically around them, and instruction on how to navigate the world around them.

While the glasses will be available in some buildings, Abele says the service is usable with just a smartphone and a pair of headphones. An AIRA agent can use the smartphone’s camera to describe the space to the smartphone user.

The service isn’t typically free. Plans can be purchased based on the user’s needs, but for Milwaukee’s blind and low vision community, the service will be free.

Milwaukeeans will now be able to find AIRA at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, Mitchell Park Domes, Boerner Botanical Gardens, Marcia P. Coggs Human Services Center, the Safety Building, Vel Phillips Youth and Family Justice Center, War Memorial Center, Wehr Nature Center and the Milwaukee County Zoo.

By summer 2019, AIRA will also be available at beer gardens located in Milwaukee County Parks.