Texas Tech now offering digital software for visually impaired s

Texas Tech now offering digital software for visually impaired students, visitors on campus

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

A look into the future.

At least that's what Texas Tech University is now offering to visually impaired students and visitors on its campus. 

"This software program that we found literally gives the person, who has a visual impairment, full eyesight into the area they go into," Larry Phillippe, managing director of Texas Tech's Student Disability Services (SDS), said.

A free download on smartphones, Aira works through augmented reality.

This allows a user to call an expert on the app, letting the Aira agent see and communicate the user's surroundings. 

"They hold up their phone, they use the camera in their smartphone and hold it up, so while they're navigating, the person is talking to them through an earpiece. They don't have to, but it helps, especially in a classroom. The person on the other end will navigate them through wherever they're at and everything in front of them," Phillippe said.

Phillippe said this will make navigation on campus easy for everyone, and it is not just for students. 

"There's also a place at the top that says you can login as a guest. That was one reason we were excited about it because it allows anyone that comes on campus with a visual impairment to be able to access our campus and access the system," Phillippe said.

He said this has been a steep challenge for all colleges across the country, but Texas Tech is helping lead the way for more visually impaired students to succeed. 

"It puts us on the forefront of it. We are the first university in Texas to use it, and we're one of only five or six so far in the country. I think in the next two to three years, it'll be everywhere because it's a piece of technology that simply makes sense," Phillippe said.

Phillippe added this is a part of the school's commitment to making a fully inclusive campus, and after multiple rounds of testing in the fall, he said he expects the software to debut on campus this year.

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