Canadian researchers breaking down barriers for people living with vision loss

Expanded Autour app's audio-guided technology helps people who are blind or partially sighted better navigate Canadian cities 

MONTRÉAL, Aug. 3, 2016 /CNW/ - Researchers at McGill University have developed an innovative technology so Canadians living with vision loss can better navigate the world around them. 

After successfully testing its Autour application in Montréal, and with funding from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority's Community Investment Program, the McGill team has launched an expanded version of the app to include cities across Canada.

The app overlays GPS, Google Maps, public transit and other data to provide audible instructions and descriptions to help guide users' movements. The expanded and improved Autour app is available to iPhone users now via the Apple Store. 

Key Facts 

  • Navigating a city, particularly the unfamiliar parts, can be difficult for those with visual impairments. Autour communicates to the visually impaired community the places around them and services available. In turn, individual users gain greater autonomy and confidence in exploring their environment - both in familiar areas and in previously unvisited parts of their cities.
  • Autour works in cities across Canada, and is particularly useful in the large, metropolitan centres from which researchers scraped transit data. These include: Halifax, Quebec City, Greater Montréal, Sherbrooke, Ottawa-Gatineau, Toronto/GTA, Hamilton, Waterloo, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, Greater Vancouver, and Victoria.
  • Usability is a key factor making Autour the app of choice for the blind and visually impaired community.  The expanded Autour features a new tutorial to give users a clear understanding of how the app works. The tutorial can even be used indoors, and in other environments where GPS may not be available.


"Our lab has long taken an approach of focusing on technology projects with a social impact, so our experience with spatial audio and mobile interaction led us naturally to work with the visually impaired community. We have truly enjoyed the experience of working with members of the community, and believe that the valuable input we received makes Autour the most user-friendly app available today – a go-to piece of technology that will improve the lives of the people who use it." 

- Jeremy Cooperstock, McGill University 

"At CIRA, we are building a better online Canada for all Canadians and the Autour app will help Canadians living with vision loss to be more active, full participatory members of the communities in which they live, work and visit."

- David Fowler, Director of Marketing and Communications, CIRA 

"The Autour app's technology is the sort of real-world solution that has the potential to improve daily life for Canadians living with vision loss, and CNIB is proud to have supported its development with funds from the  E. Ben and Mary Hochhausen Award,"

- Keith Gordon, Vice-President, Research, CNIB.

Additional Resources 

About CIRA's Community Investment Program 

Through the Community Investment Program, CIRA funds projects that demonstrate the capacity to build a better online Canada. The CIRA team manages Canada's country code top-level domain on behalf of all Canadians. A Member-based organization, CIRA represents the interests of Canada's Internet community internationally. To date, the Community Investment Program has supported 78 innovative projects across Canada with grants totalling $3.2 million

SOURCE Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA)

Image with caption: "A screen shot of Autour’s simple interface (CNW Group/Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA))". Image available at:

For further information: Ryan Saxby Hill, Communications Manager, CIRA,, 613-316-2397


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