Envision To Host November 7 Summit To Discuss Strategies For Making Wichita A ‘Smart City’

November 03, 2017
Wichita, Kan. – Envision announced today that it is working in collaboration with Wichita State University and the City of Wichita to host a Stakeholder Summit on Tuesday, November 7. The purpose of the summit is to discuss CityGuide, a proposed wayfinding system that will make Wichita more accessible to people of all abilities. Organizations or individuals who would like to be included in the initiative are currently being sought. 
Expected participants at the November 7 Summit include stakeholders from nonprofits, government entities, businesses, academic institutions, members of the differently abled community and others. Attendees will work to gain a shared understanding of the potential for cutting-edge beacon technology to improve information access in public spaces, identify common needs and issues faced by residents who travel on sidewalks, streets and inside buildings and to generate ideas about how to further develop accessible wayfinding services to best meet residents’ needs.
The Stakeholder Summit is the first formal step in a joint Smart Cities initiative led by WSU with Envision and other organizations serving as subcontractors. WSU received a $100,000 planning grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund a series of planning activities aimed at engaging the greater Wichita community and identifying integrative research priorities in realizing CityGuide’s vision.  In addition to providing facilities for the Summit and future events, Envision will lend its expertise in the challenges facing individuals who are blind or visually impaired to the planning process. The project as a whole grew out of the partnership that was established last year between Dr. Laura Walker, Envision Research Institute executive director, and Dr. Vinod Namboodiri, WSU Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science assistant professor.
“We are in the process of identifying wayfinding challenges that have yet to be met – or in some cases identified – in making Wichita accessible to all. Researchers will take this information and turn it into a research proposal for a February submission to the NSF,” said Laura Walker, Ph.D., executive director of the Envision Research Institute (ERI).
The grant is part of the NSF’s Smart & Connected Communities effort, which aims to advance understanding of cities and communities to improve their functioning and the quality of life within them through innovations in computing, engineering, information and physical sciences, social and learning sciences. Kicking off with the Stakeholder Summit, the Smart Cities team of collaborators will apply the grant toward addressing long-term questions surrounding how to design effective wayfinding systems that are usable by all.
CityGuide relies on an infrastructure of proximity-based information emitters called beacons, which can be used by devices such as smartphones to identify locations of the users who are carrying them. In using this system to create a more navigable Wichita, CityGuide would supplement existing outdoor GPS data with inclusive wayfinding information and related services (such as landmark historical details, emergency evacuation information, context-based recommendations and more), paying specific attention to the needs of people with disabilities.
WSU’s Community Engagement Institute is helping to organize the Stakeholder Summit and to capture information. Members of the community can request invitations or submit questions by contacting Teresa Strausz at the Community Engagement Institute at Teresa.Strausz@wichita.edu or by calling (316) 978-6778. Registration is also available online at https://tinyurl.com/CityGuideSummit.
About Envision: Envision promotes advocacy and independence for those who are blind or low vision. Founded in 1933, Envision is one of the largest employers of individuals with vision loss in the nation. Headquartered in Wichita, Kan., Envision’s mission is to improve the quality of life and provide inspiration and opportunity for people who are blind or visually impaired through employment, outreach, rehabilitation, education and research. For more information, visit www.envisionus.com.

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