Well the short answer to this question is yes. But I suppose before I get into the nitty gritty a bit more I should explain what geocaching is and how I became involved in it. Geocaching is like treasure hunting with a GPS device. Yep you heard me right… you use GPS devices to locate hidden caches of treasure. Now before you get too excited and go out and buy a GPS, an eye patch and a parrot, it has to be said that the treasure is largely the sense of achievement for finding the cache and perhaps a small plastic dinosaur or a badge. Here are the highlights… there are over 2 million caches hidden worldwide. Anyone can take part all you need is access to the web and a GPS device and you might find that your phone or tablet already has this capability these days. It is largely free if you want it to be but like any hobby you can take things to various levels of involvement and of course various levels of expense. For much more information about geocaching go look at http://www.geocaching.com where all will be explained in far greater detail and with more clarity no doubt.
I became involved in geocaching just a few short weeks ago after my son brought home a book from school all about maps and navigation. My interest was pricked by the mention of this sport and I decided to check it out. In a few short weeks I am well and truly hooked a fact which my family well and truly know by my keenness to go out “caching” at every possible opportunity.
So that brings me, with a surprising lack of waffling, back to the subject of this post – Can a blind or visually impaired person geocache? So far I am able to certainly take an active part in the hobby but it has to be said that it might be very difficult for a blind person to cache alone. You can do all the online research, logging etc. on geocaching.com which as websites go is fairly accessible so no problems there. As for actually getting out and finding the caches my experience so far has been using the geocaching.com app for my iPhone. My iPhone, of course, has voiceover enabled and the app itself is very voiceover friendly apart from one or two aspects which I will come back to. I can identify caches in the local area using the app and I can count down the distance to a cache as we near it on foot with relative ease. The app doesn’t really give me a clear indication of the direction the cache is in, well not one that works with voiceover. The screen shows a lovely compass pointing the direction of the find but no audible indication which is a shame.
Once you get as close as you can with the GPS then it is time to engage your eyes or hands and find it. Now this sounds silly but there is no reason why blind people can’t get stuck in here. If you observe good safety tips and with a little guidance from companions you can get amongst it and help search. Of the 15 caches our family have found I personally have laid my hands first on two of them so it can be done and it is a massively rewarding feeling to be the one to find it. Dress well and be safe but get amongst it. I have been into fields, through thorns and stingers, down to a dried up river bed and even up a tree and am still here to tell the tale.
Ok so it is possible but I am knew to the sport and definitely a novice in terms of what my options are. So if you are reading this and know of better more accessible ways to locate caches and navigate to them then I am all ears. The geocaching.com app has a major flaw for voiceover users in that the list view of found caches goes loopy when you have voiceover turned on I assume because the GPS is updating the information on the page to quickly for voiceover to keep up. If this could be fixed it would make things a lot more usable for sure. An app for my iPhone that would navigate me to a cache turn by turn to the nearest street and then off road by and audible compass bearing would be a joy and make my involvement in the sport far more fulfilling. That is my quest and I will post my progress towards achieving it.