RNIB partners with what3words to highlight power of providing precise locations for blind and partially sighted people

Post date: 
Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Drawing of a sports stadium with indicators showing the what3words labels of each area

Event organisers and venue managers across the UK are being encouraged to provide additional address information to help blind and partially sighted people to arrive exactly where they need to be. 

Sight loss charity RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) and technology firm what3words have partnered to highlight how inadequate location information remains a significant barrier to independence for many and how simple it is for businesses to inspire positive change.

There are around 340,000 people registered blind or partially sighted in the UK and an estimated two million people living with sight loss affecting their daily lives. Technology can play a key role in empowering many of those to maintain greater independence.

For those with sight loss, finding specific entrances to buildings, meeting points at busy venues or a taxi drop-off can be a daily source of frustration. Journeys to new locations can be an exasperating experience if you can’t see landmarks and other markers that feature in many directions. 

what3words technology has taken the globe and divided it into a grid of 3 metre squares, and assigned each square a unique combination of three random words: a what3words address. For example the three word address for the square at entrance to RNIB’s London office is ///rooms.herbs.cars. 

The system has been designed with voice input in mind, enabling people to easily convey specific locations including those with no street address such as beaches, national parks and bus stops - by speaking three word addresses aloud. 

Robin Spinks, RNIB’s Senior Manager Inclusive Design and Innovation said: “As someone with sight loss, I know from experience that street addresses often don’t provide precise locations. They might take you to the right building but then you’ve got to work out if you’ve come to the right entrance or need to be on the other side of the building entirely. 

“Using what3words can help to reduce that anxiety and uncertainty and the extra time saved can be spent catching up with a friend or kicking off a business meeting rather than apologising to them for arriving late.”  

Chris Sheldrick, co-founder and CEO of what3words added “It’s been amazing to hear from RNIB how technologies such as what3words can make a huge difference to the day-to-day experience of blind and partially sighted people. As businesses across the UK plan for a return to public events this spring and summer, we’re encouraging them to publicise their three word addresses to give people more ways of finding exactly where they need to be.”

Among the many venues already displaying their what3words address to help customers find them more easily are The 02, Wembley Stadium, Alexandra Palace, University College London, The RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland and Arsenal FC's Emirates Stadium.

Alongside working with the technology sector, RNIB continues to campaign for more inclusive street design so those with sight loss feel confident getting around our towns and cities. 

Notes to editors

All media enquiries to the RNIB press office on 0207 391 2223 or [email protected] For urgent enquiries out-of-hours, please call 07968 482812. 

About RNIB

We are the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Every six minutes, someone in the UK begins to lose their sight. RNIB is taking a stand against exclusion, inequality and isolation to create a world without barriers where people with sight loss can lead full lives. A different world where society values blind and partially sighted people not for the disabilities they’ve overcome, but for the people they are. RNIB. See differently. Call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit www.rnib.org.uk

About what3words

Co-founded in London in 2013 by Chris Sheldrick, what3words is revolutionising the way the world talks about location. The system covers the entire world, never needs updating, and works offline. A what3words address is a human-friendly way to share very precise locations with other people, or to input them into platforms and machines such as ride-hailing apps or e-commerce checkouts. It is optimised for voice input and contains built-in error prevention to immediately identify and correct input mistakes.

The free what3words app, available for iOS and Android, and the online map enable people to find, share and navigate to what3words addresses in 50 languages to date. Millions of what3words addresses are in use around the world, with thousands of businesses using them to save money, be more efficient and provide a better customer experience. what3words is integrated into apps, platforms and websites, with just a few lines of code. Products are available for free or for a nominal fee for qualifying NGOs. Its partners include Mercedes-Benz, Triumph Motorcycles, Premier Inn, the AA and many emergency services across the world.

what3words has a team of over 100 people, across offices in the UK, USA, Germany, India and Mongolia. The company has raised over £100 million in capital from investors such as Intel, Aramex, Deutsche Bahn, Subaru and Sony Innovation Fund.