The hustle and bustle of the tube is enough for anyone, but imagine trying to navigate the labyrinth of tunnels, escalators and ticket barriers without your sight. This is the reality faced by blind and partially-sighted Londoners every day.
Until now, a turn up and go system of assistance has been in place, with staff able to help visually impaired people down to platforms or on and off trains — something which is very much welcomed by those who need the help. But there are often problems in communication between stations, and even when the system does run smoothly, having to rely on others for assistance can rob visually-impaired people of their independence.
Now the Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB) and digital product studio ustwo have created a new app to allow blind people to navigate the tube independently. Wayfindr has been designed and tested at Pimlico station in conjunction with TfL, and uses bluetooth beacons to identify the person's location, offering directions and letting them know when they are approaching obstacles such as stairs, escalators and ticket barrier. We tried it out.
So far, Wayfindr has only been tested at Pimlico, but RLSB hopes that eventually it can be rolled out across the London Underground network and beyond.