Meet John-Ross (JR) Barresi, our National Locations Manager.
JR manages all the BindiMaps supported locations in Australia, including setting them up and maintaining them.
This means he is often out at shopping centres, office buildings or hospitals getting the spaces ready for the BindiMaps navigation system to do its thing.
But once a location is set up, JR is in charge of making sure that it continues to work well for our users, and that any changes in a location such as renovations or shops in shopping centre opening and closing, are reflected quickly in BindiMaps.
One thing that gives JR a special insight in this process is his experience as an Orientation & Mobility Specialist. Before BindiMaps, he spent 17 years working as an O&M with Guide Dogs Victoria.
“I like to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make sure that anyone with alow vision or blindness is going to have the best experience possible when navigating a location mapped with BindiMaps,” he says.
Asked about what O&M Specialists do, JR says, “We work with people with low vision and blindness to be able to navigate the community. An O&M teaches you how to use a cane, how to get ready to get a guide dog, anything you need to learn to be able to navigate your way around outdoors.”
As a young man, JR knew he wanted to work in health but wasn’t sure where, but he studied Health Science and majored in O&M. He remembers this as an unusual choice — most of his classmates went into other health fields such as nursing or physiotherapy.
O&M is still a relatively small profession — Vision Australia, and the state guide dog organisations are the only significant employers of O&M professionals in Australia (other than BindiMaps).
One interesting thing about studying O&M is that you can spend a lot of your time with your eyes closed! “In university, we did a lot of work under a blindfold,” says JR. “It really helps to learn first-hand what it is like to live with low vision.”
JR’s father migrated to Australia from the national location of southern Italy in the early 1960s, and his parents still live in the same house the family moved into in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg when he first arrived.