Yvonne Burkhardt, a blind resident of Memmingen, shares her unique perspective on the city and how she navigates through it. Despite never having seen the city, Burkhardt has lived there for 23 years and has developed her own understanding of its sights and sounds.
Burkhardt explains that she prefers shopping at the market rather than the supermarket because the sellers at the market ask her what she wants, while in the supermarket she always has to ask for help. As she walks through the city, she points out the guide strip, a row of gray, grooved paving stones, which helps her navigate the pedestrian zone. She swings her cane from left to right across the strip to ensure there are no obstacles in her path.
Technology has made Burkhardt’s life much easier. She uses a special device that converts texts on computer screens into Braille, allowing her to read and work efficiently. She also wears glasses equipped with a mini camera and a small speaker, which help her read door signs and menus. While these technologies enhance her independence, they have limitations as they can only recognize print.
Burkhardt also relies on her smartphone, which has voice input and special apps designed for the visually impaired. For example, there are apps that provide subtitles for movies and apps that can recognize colors. When asked how blind people perceive colors, Burkhardt explains that she associates them with smells. To her, golden brown smells like fresh toast, and ocher smells like wall paint.
During the walk, Burkhardt points out a push button at a bus stop in the wine market. Initially hesitant to press it, she discovers the word “Info” in Braille, which prompts her to press it. This button allows her to access information displayed on the scoreboard. However, she does encounter difficulties at Schrannenplatz, where cars only stop for pedestrians who make eye contact. As a blind person, she often waits for a long time to cross the street.
Overall, Burkhardt acknowledges that adjusting to life in Memmingen was initially challenging but credits her parents and mobility training for helping her navigate the city. As the walk concludes back at the market square, Burkhardt humorously points out the common phrase “we see each other” used to bid farewell among blind individuals.
Yvonne Burkhardt’s story sheds light on the experiences and challenges faced by visually impaired individuals in their daily lives. Her determination and the technological aids available to her showcase the ways in which blind people can navigate and thrive in their surroundings.]
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