A New Ride For The City Blind

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Riding in a taxi can be a harrowing experience for the blind and visually impaired. If they choose to pay with a credit card, they were forced to rely on cab drivers to swipe their card and enter the correct amount, including the tip. Now, thanks to new software unveiled by Council Member James Vacca, former Governor David Paterson, Creative Mobile Technologies (CMT), and Lighthouse International, those riders can now use the credit system independently. Since 2008, yellow cabs in the city are required to have a touch screen that provides maps, fare information, and a credit payment system. Many of these systems are already provided by CMT. This new tech gives CMT equipped taxis nationwide with audible touch screens. The new monitors will allow passengers to hear fare changes at regular intervals, and provide a new way for the visually impaired to use their credit and debit cards. With the swipe of a special card, or by asking the driver, riders can make the screen accessible to visually impaired. The touch screen is then divided into large, easy to navigate sections that are prompted by step-by-step spoken instructions. "I know that New York City is one of the most difficult places for blind and visually impaired individuals to navigate, because my own father was blind. This issue is personal for me," said Vacca in an emailed statement. "This technology will make a real difference for people who need it." The new touch screens are the latest in a string of pro-accessibility measures championed by Vacca, who is also Chair of the Council Transportation Committee. On March 28 the City Council passed three bills aimed at improving mobility for the visually impaired, including a bill by Vacca that requires the Department of Transportation to post maps online that are accessible to those with sight and hearing disabilities.

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