Shedd Aquarium launches app giving blind guests independence

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Shedd Aquarium is using innovative technology to help blind and visually impaired visitors discover all that it has to offer.

The tourist attraction launched the Aira app this summer. The app delivers free, real-time audio descriptions of exhibits.

"It downloads quickly - literally within a matter of seconds - and you press one button and you have your trained agent ready to assist," said Lynn Walsh, the Shedd's accessibility and inclusion coordinator.

Denise Avant said the app gives her independence to explore like never before.

"The experience is really great because I'm able to get the description I want or I need from an agent," she said. "If I didn't have the app and let's say I just came here, I wouldn't know what was off to my left or my right or what was in front of me. I wouldn't know the color or the size or the shape of what I'm looking at."

The Aira app agents give users any and every detail they desire.

"I was able to walk forward, have her describe the turtle, what is he doing, how big is he and his color," Avant said. "And if we wanted to read more about the habitat in more detail I would ask her where was the sign, she would direct me over to it and then she would read it to me."

It's all part of a continued commitment to access and inclusion.

"Shedd does offer resources to a variety of people with disabilities but often times we need advanced notice but with Aira it's on the spot whenever the people want it, need it. It's here and ready to go," Walsh said.

The Shedd is the first aquarium to join the Aira Access Network. Visit the aquarium's website for more information about its accessibility efforts.
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