London is on the cusp of having the world's most accessible public transport system for visually impaired people, after a smartphone app was given $1m funding by Google.org.
Wayfindr — a joint project between RLSB and developer Ustwo — guides visually impaired people through tube stations using audio directions triggered by 'beacons' installed in the stations.
We tried Wayfindr when it was being tested at Pimlico station, and it's now being trialled at the much busier Euston. If all goes well, it will be rolled out to other stations across the network.
Dr Tom Pey, chief executive of RLSB and chair of Wayfindr, said: "What makes Wayfindr so strong is the focus on smartphones, meaning blind people don’t have to spend hundreds of pounds on different gadgets — they have everything they need in their pockets. I am excited for our young people to be at the forefront of making London the most accessible city in the world, through the Wayfindr Standard."
David Waboso, LU’s capital programmes director, said: "Our trial at Euston is really putting the system through its paces, to see whether it can fulfil its promise at one of London’s busiest tube stations. Ultimately this innovative project is about giving our vision-impaired customers the flexibility to travel with the same independence and spontaneity as everyone else."
Following the London Underground trial, there are plans to develop Wayfindr in other situations, such as shopping centres and hospitals. It is hoped that the technology will set the standard for other cities worldwide to make themselves more accessible for visually impaired residents and visitors.
You can find out more in this video:
The Google grant will also allow for development of the Wayfindr Standard, a set of guidelines for audio navigation for visually impaired people. By finding venues and navigation services which comply with the standard, visually impaired people can get an idea of places they can go and services they can use independently.