Accessibility Around Us

A wearable input device (that could be clamped to a cane) for blind and low-vision travellers to conveniently access Microsoft Soundscape and switch controls.

Duration: 2 weeks
Team: Jazz Ang, Venkatesh Potluri, Ana Liu

The Project

Blind and low-vision travelers use apps such as Microsoft Soundscape and Blindsquare to build a richer awareness of their surroundings, thus becoming more confident and empowered to get around. Unlike step-by-step navigation apps such as Google Maps, Soundscape uses 3D audio cues to enrich ambient awareness and provide a new way to relate to the environment. These apps make it easy to control their features by re-purposing the regular media controls (play/pause, rewind and forward) to give important information on-demand while commuting. Though these can be invoked using media controls on headphones, it may be not as hassle free to stop using one’s cane and tap these controls while on the move.

With this, we were inspired to create an ‘Around Me’ sets of buttons that enable blind and low-vision travelers to conveniently access the functions of these app and their phone with the click of these buttons. These buttons could also potentially be clamped to the cane.

This short project is jointly co-created by Jazz AngAna Liu & Venkatesh Potluri. To view how it was done, check out our instructables here

Prototyping using Arduino

Using a Adafruit Feather NRF52 Bluefruit board, we created 6 buttons that are connected over Bluetooth to your mobile device. When Microsoft Soundscape is on the background, Button A will start (or pause) the synthesised binaural audio, such as the heartbeating audio cues from Soundscape, and audio notifications of where the user is. The play/pause works by activating with the media player running on the background. Here are what the other 5 buttons do:

Mute Volume

This button mute (and unmute) the volume.


When Soundscape is on the background, it describes points of interest in front of you, for example when walking down the street. On music/video player, the button plays the next song or video.


Likewise, this button plays past places of interest on Soundscape and plays the previous song or video.


This button acts as the home button on your phone, it directs users back to the main home screen.

Switch Control

This button will be connected to the iOS switch control options that could be configured to serve as the button to select on the switch control mode.

To know how it was done (e.g. the codes, circuit wiring etc.), view the documentation below. 

View Documentation

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