Randee Boerboom left her small Minnesota hometown to attend a metro area college. Years later, she’s still here because of transit.
“In my hometown, you’d need a car to get around,” Boerboom said. “I ride transit often – about every day.”
As a legally blind person, her dog Ruffles helps her get around using Metro Transit. But even her trusty friend can’t help her with every potential issue.
“I get nervous whenever I take a new route,” she said. “There’s a lot of visual information out there that people take for granted.”
Today, armed with her mobile phone and an app called Aira, she feels not only confident, but safer taking transit. The application uses her phone's camera and microphone to transmit real-time video and to talk with a real person.
“We have a conversation,” Boerboom said. “They can help me with information that Ruffles can’t show me.”
With earbuds in and phone camera pointed at the scene, she can ask the agent questions and the agent can help inform her about the area as she makes her trip. Even the short distance from her apartment to her first stop, there's information that her dog can't communicate, like a low hanging branch or some other obstacle.
“They tell me what’s going on,” she said. “And they’ll continue to stay with me as long as I need if I feel unsafe.”
From physical hazards and changes to a region to suspicious behavior of others, Boerboom feels safe with someone on the line with her telling her what’s going on.
“This is such a valuable service,” she said.
The Aira pilot will continue through the end of 2022. During the pilot, users can use Aira at no cost. Learn more at metrotransit.org/aira. Learn about working with an Outreach Coordinator at metrotransit.org/accessibility.