New app is helping blind and partially sighted bus users in pilot

Post date: 
Monday, 21 August 2017

A new mobile app that makes real-time information at bus stops more accessible for people with sight loss is being trialled in councils across England.

The app can display travel information on your smartphone or make bus stop information signs talk.

What is it?

Most real-time passenger information signs found at bus or tram stops have an in-built system that allows them to recognise devices that try to wirelessly interact with them.
This system, known as the React System by REACT Technologies, can currently be accessed by users with a key fob.
When a user approaches a sign, the display automatically receives a signal that turns the sign into a “talking sign”. Pressing the button on the fob then sends a request to the sign to announce its information out loud.
REACT are currently trialling an app version that works via Bluetooth, which not only means the technology is in your pocket, but it also allows the user to decide how they receive the information.

How does it work?

When you’re within 3-5 metres of a sign that has the system installed, you send a message from your phone via Bluetooth to request the passenger information.
The app can then display this information in a range of formats depending on your preference. For example, you could listen to it through headphones or have it displayed in a large font. It can also turn on a hearing loop switch (transmitting the signal directly into a hearing aid for people with hearing loss) or even trigger the display to announce it in another language.

So why the trial?

Right now, a person needs to have a fob to use the system, which costs about £40 and has to be bought by either a council or an individual. You also need to keep the fob with you and replace the battery every three to 12 months.
The app, on the other hand, not only costs less than a battery change, but it comes with a helpdesk function and upgrades, and can be downloaded in minutes.
The trial will reveal if people find the app helpful and allow local authorities to check the system is easier for them to administer than the fob. If successful, REACT Technologies hope to roll the app out across the UK.

How to get involved

The app has been made available on Android through Google Play Store and is already being rolled out in Derbyshire, Essex and Poole. 
Russell Gard, managing director of REACT Technologies, says: “We are inviting people with a special interest in improving passenger accessibility to contact us. Whether you’re a passenger who currently uses the React System, a member of staff at a local authority or a travel display provider or a member of a disability support group – we would love to hear your views on how the app is working.”
Anyone interested can contact REACT directly on 01457 861 431 or email [email protected]
Those joining the test will then be able to download a free trial version of the React System app from the Google Play Store.

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