Visually impaired Londoners could find tube travel easier to navigate thanks to a new mobile app.
Like many young people with vision impairment, members of the Royal London Society of Blind People (RLSB) Youth Forum want to be able to navigate London Underground without assistance.
A new app called Wayfindr has been developed by ustwo, a studio which builds digital products and services, in response. It uses Bluetooth technology to guide people around the station.
The app was trialled in March by 15 blind and partially sighted people aged 16-30 at Pimlico station in London.
Wayfindr uses Bluetooth beacons at points in the London Underground which transmit a signal that is picked up by smartphones and mobile devices. Using these beacons, the app is able to locate itself and give audio directions through headphones to the user on how to get around safely.
Following the trial, RLSB is now in discussion with third parties to try and get the app going in the long term.
Courtney Nugent, an RLSB Youth Forum member who took part in the trial, said: “When I tested the app at Pimlico for the first time it was awesome, it made me feel free.”
Dr Tom Pey, Chief Executive of the RLSB, congratulated the Youth Forum. He said: “You are leading the way in making London one of the most accessible cities in the world. You have demonstrated the creativity and tenacity to change the transport system of London.”
Richard Holmes, Regional Campaigns Officer at RNIB, said: “We welcome anything which improves the independence and confidence of blind and partially sighted people as they navigate the Underground. We shall be very interested to see how this develops.”
In June 2016, Wayfindr won the Vision Pioneer Award 2016 for Innovation, and it's not hard to understand why. They've since secured a grant from Google.org through the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities to develop their Open Standard for audio Beacon navigation. The hope is that this will then be implemented by all public spaces with Beacon technology to help make travel around public spaces much easier for blind or partially sighted people.
Wayfindr are also hosting a public Hackathon on January 21st 2017 - watch this space for further developments!
Find out more about the Wayfindr app on RLSB’s website.
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