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

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 /// 

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.