SAN FRANCISCO – When Ed Gallagher goes sailing, he wears a webcam on his head, straps a netbook computer to his hip and hops onto a boat with his dog. Then he relies on Herb Meyer, a skipper back on land, to watch the live, streaming webcam video and give him instructions.
Mr. Gallagher, who is 59 years old, is blind. "I used to listen to the old blind guys who had been sailing for years say you don't really need your eyes," he says. "I wanted the ability for blind people to truly sail by themselves without a whole crew."
Mr. Gallagher's sailing experiment was on view one Sunday afternoon recently. While Mr. Meyer, who is also disabled, parked his wheelchair at the bar in the San Francisco Yacht Club with a laptop, cellphone and a beer, Mr. Gallagher was in a 36-foot sailboat with his guide dog, Genoa.
"Tack left, Ed. Tack left," Mr. Meyer spoke into his headset. "Ed, you're not listening to me. I'm the captain. Tack left. Oh, I lost him again," he said after the screen went dark from a weak signal. For Mr. Meyer, who still sails after a boating accident left him wheelchair-bound 17 years ago, it was like playing a videogame.
The sailing experiment is part of Mr. Gallagher's broader project to offer a remote guidance system to help the blind perform everyday tasks from reading expiration dates on food packaging to crossing streets (since bicycles and hybrid cars are difficult to hear). In the past four years, the retired building contractor has performed a number of dangerous—and ordinary—tasks using the system.
Click here to read more from The Wall Street Journal