In the world, there are 217 million people with some kind of visual deficiency that ranges from moderate to serious. Within that spectrum, 36 million people are blind, according to the World Health Organization. For these people, getting around daily can be a real challenge, something that alienates them from the work force, reduces autonomy, and sociability as well. Even though open space navigation is getting easier every day, thanks to different positioning services, moving around indoor spaces is still a challenge for this collective.
To improve the situation, Chilean electric civil engineer and founder of Larazrillo, René Espinosa, created LazarilloApp, which increases accessibility to public and private buildings for people with visual impairments. Thanks to this advancement, Espinosa has become a winner of the Latin American Innovators under 35 from the MIT Technology Review LATAM edition.
To achieve its objective, Lazarillo maps physical spaces of businesses and institutions. Once mapped, the app plays audio messages to help people with disabilities to better orient themselves through those inside spaces. “People not only have to wait by the door, now they can orient themselves on the inside of a room independently,” the innovator explains. The maps that Google offers, explains Espinosa, are not very accessible for blind people. For that, his app incorporates an exploratory function that gives information regarding its surroundings, streets, and stores that the user is passing by, offering the user directions.
Initially, Lazarillo was born as part of a dissertation project to help blind people. But after the first experience, Espinosa's start-up began to work on helping other types of users. “For people who have problems with restricted mobility. it gives them an accessible route and can include instructions in sign language to able to help deaf people," explains the engineer. “The app is free and is available for Android and iOS and works in more than 29 countries.”
The young man explains that ever since he was a child, his motivation centered on achieving technology that improves the quality of life for people. Espinosa details, “I bumped into this problem and I knew I could tackle it. I had support and help, during my thesis, from a friend who is totally blind.” To guarantee, the price sustainability of this social project, which is free, the entrepreneur offers a paid service to corporations and institutions.
About Lazarillo, the director of Da Vinci Foundation, Urguay, and a jury member for the 2019 Latin American Innovators uUnder 35, Sergio Delgado, especially values his “human capital and the amazing level of the solution established.”