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Innovation in Sight for Visually Impaired London Tube Travellers

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by Startacus Admin

London is one of the busiest cities in the UK, and the hustle and bustle can be quite overwhelming for just about anyone, so it’s hard to imagine just how difficult tasks such as navigating the tube can be for someone who is either blind or partially sighted.

Wayfindr AppOur sight is probably the most important sense that we have, so to not be able to rely on it must be quite challenging and un-nerving. Of course, up until now there have always been staff available who are able to help those who need it get to where they’re going, get on to their platform and on and off the trains. Those who need the help certainly appreciate it, and would be lost without it. However, relying on another human being and trusting them with your safety is not for everyone. It can be quite embarrassing for those who may think that they are a burden and means a loss of independence. As well as this, there is no telling when there may be a problem or delay.

Well there is no longer a need to worry, because a productive collaboration between the Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB) has given birth to an innovative and helpful solution. Together with ustwo they have created a fantastic app that allows both blind and partially sighted people navigate the tube independently and safely.

London UndergroundThe app, named Wayfindr has been tested at Pimlico station with great success. How does it work? It uses bluetooth existing iBeacons and smartphone technology. ustwo have developed a location-tracking system that can identify the person’s location and offers them directions through audio, directing them from waypoint to waypoint through bone conducting earphones. It also lets them know when they are approaching obstacles, including stairs and escalators - it’s like a sat nav for people who have trouble seeing!

The inspiration for the technology came from the first manifesto for visually impaired young people that was released by the RLSB in March 2014. It allowed them to highlight problem areas and make changes that would help those with difficulty and improve their life. In this manifesto, one of they key issues was transport:

“Just like many other young people our age, particularly in London, we rely on public transport to get around, to see our friends, get to college and to work. Unlike our sighted peers we cannot learn to drive; we have no choice but to rely on public transport and other people to get around”.

It hasn’t been tested much, and so far has only been tested at Pimlico station, but both RLSB and ustwo hope that Wayfindr will eventually be available all across London. You can find out more about the design process here.

Want to see Wayfindr in action? Check out the video below!

Wayfindr Helps Visually Impaired

New navigation app wants to help the visually impaired navigate London's Underground safely.

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Published on: 12th April 2015

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