Czech Blind United

Provided services

Free information and assistance line

The free hotline is the main instrument for communication with our clients and for providing the service. Visually handicapped persons from all over the country can contact the centre through this hotline during the operation hours, no matter if they are calling from a mobile phone, a landline or a phone box. Our clients don't have to face a prerecorded automatic calling system as this is often the case with some other information services. They will be able to speak to one of the operators immediately. Operators in our centre have access to many various information sources, of course to the Internet in the first place. This means that they are able to give all kind of information. Questions asking about travel information or orientation in an unknown area are of the highest priority. So are the most common questions asking about bus, train or public transport timetables. Our operators, however, don't response to such questions only by finding the departure time of a particular bus or train, they also advise the client about possible ways of travelling on the given track and can give recommendations about the most suitable way of travelling or combination of means of transport. Our operators always take in consideration the particular needs and wishes of each client as well as the special needs that blind and partially sighted persons may have. This means for example that if it is necessary to change line while travelling, our operators are aware of the fact that a blind or partially sighted person may need some extra time to find the right way in a railway or bus station. Therefore, they would suggest such alternatives of travelling that provide this extra time for change. If the change is between two different stations (like from a bus station to a rail waystation) our operators would check how difficult it is to get from the one station to the other and would advise the client the best way to go. Mostly it is possible to find out from which platform the bus leaves and with the most trains it is also possible to check the current position of it. This makes it possible to inform the client about any delay of the bus or train and clients can also be warned when they are approaching the required destination to get off on time. Operators can even find out contacts to assistance or guidance service in the required station if there is some.

Moreover, our operators can provide the users with various kind of information that has to do very little or even nothing with travelling. Very often, our clients ask for phone numbers or other contacts of companies or private persons that are included in the common phone book. Yet, our operators don't refuse requests for any information if it is somehow possible to find out and if the centre is currently not too busy. The most questions can be answered immediately or in case of more complicated requests within a few minutes.

In some cases, our operators are able to help our clients out of trouble directly and help to find a solution.

Out of the operation hours there is an answering machine in the centre where clients can leave a message. Our operators can call the client back during the next working day or get the requested information ready until the client calls again by himself. Even if the information should no longer be of any use at that time it is still recommended to leave a message with a short description of the problem. Such messages help the centre to analyse the demand and extend the operation hours if needed. Beside the common phone line it is also possible to use the application Skype for communication with the centre.

Preparing itineraries (way descriptions)

Also this service is provided to all visually impaired persons in the Czech Republic. Users give either per e-mail or per telephone a description of their intended way (when and where they intend to travel) and the Navigational Centre then prepares a detailed plan of their route for them. This plan includes information on all kind of points that may be useful for the orientation as well as instructions how to get from the starting point to the next bus, train or tram station and further some advices which means of transport are optimal to use. After that, users get the description of their way from the other station to the designated destination. Such descriptions can be created for the area of the whole Czech Republic. Our operators, of course, can not visit all the locations in person yet they use detailed maps, aerial photographs, travel service information and other sources. It is clear that this method has some limitations. The description can not give information on every obstacle such as steps or billboards or other unexpected occurences. Yet users who are able to travel with their long cane or their dog safely get some idea what their way would look like and don't need to ask other people or even to engage an extra guide which is the most important about the service. Some examples of way descriptions can be viewed in the section useful documents.

Most of the itineraries can be produced until the next day. Nevertheless, it is very useful when clients leave a notice giving the date of their intended travel. Some itineraries can even be produced earlier if the centre is currently not too busy and the itinerary too complicated. In other cases when clients do not need the itinerary too urgently our operators then have time to find out more information and to produce the itinerary even with more details. To some extend, this service can be even provided directly per phone. This means that our clients may call the centre when they arrive at a bus or train station and need to get to a certain place near the station. Our operators would then give a short way description immediately. Some users also call our centre when they plan to visit some place and want to know how easy or difficult it would be to get there, or which bus or tram to take. In such cases our operators give a short description of the place and its surroundings and suggest possible ways of getting there.

Services for users equipped with the navigational unit

The following services are intended for users equipped with the navigational unit. The navigational unit is a special device that enables the operators of the Navigational Centre to trace the user's location. With its size and weight the device can be compared to a mobile phone. Using the device is very simple. In fact, users only have to carry it with them and watch out that the batery is loaded. The navigational unit receives signals from satellites located in in medium Earth orbit. From these signals the device is calculating its actual position constantly and sending it to the Navigational Centre via GPRS automatically. Then our operators can view the actual position of the navigational unit as a point on a map or on an aerial photograph of a certain place. This position is updated regularly which generates new points on the map that can be seen as a line showing the direction in which the user moves.

There are many ways in which the navigational unit can be used:

Our operators have a permanent possibility to inform clients equipped with the navigational unit about their exact position and to provide them with a vide range of information about their surroundings. Such information could be for example the name of the street through which the client is currently walking or even the exact part of the street. our operators can advise the client about the closest surroundings - for example if there are some buildings or if there is a park on the other side of the street. They can inform the client about the next lap and tell him or her what he or she might expect. Our operators can also look for some points of interest such as a crosswalk, the next bus or tram stop, restaurants or a cash dispenser and simillar. It is also possible to find out where a building with a certain address is located and to describe the easiest way to get there. And then, while walking towards the place the client can be monitored and corrected if needed. The exact way of using the service always depends on the circumstances and on the arrangement between the client and the centre. Users may call the centre whenever they need help, no matter if they got in trouble while going a completely new way or if they got lost in a place they know well by accident. It is also very useful to use the navigational unit in combination with a prepared itinerary. Operators of the centre can then only watch whether the client is going correctly and warn if he or she does some mistake. The navigational unit can be used while going on bus or train to be informed by the operators when it is time to get off or that the train stopped e.g. because of the red light before the station to prevent the client from a premature attempt to get off. Clients are strongly recommended to call the centre even in cases of emergency like for example injures or seizures. Of course, clients could use their mobile phone to call the ambulance by themselves yet they might have problems to describe their position exactly. Operators of the centre would be able to locate the client for the ambulance very precisely.

There is a wide variety of possibilities for application of the service and it always depends on the situation and the arrangement between the centre and the client. This service as well is available for the whole Czech Republic, the only limitation could be lacking GPRS-signal needed for the data transfer in some places. The navigational unit can be loaned to every blind and partialy sighted person in the CR. The unit is normaly loaned for three months which gives the users enough time to try out the device and the services. It is possible to purchase the navigational unit to be able to use it permanently. This device is regarded as a compensatory aid and a benefit for it can be claimed.