Helping The Visually Impaired Navigate The World’s Subway Systems

Helping The Visually Impaired Navigate The World’s Subway Systems

Currently on trial in London and Sydney, world's first open standard for blind navigation is expanding again

Sara Roncero-Menendez
  • 14 september 2016

For those who are visually impaired, navigating subways systems can be difficult, if not potentially dangerous if they fall onto the tracks or trip over stairs. As PSFK has covered before, Wayfindr  helps the blind navigate crowded and hectic public transportation systems by supplying vocal direction, and is soon expanding beyond London and Sydney.

This program locates the user with BlueTooth beacons which are set up all over a station, placed strategically by Wayfindr for optimal command distribution. The beacons send out specific voice instructions to the user, such as how many steps the staircase has, where the ticket barriers are located, what trains will be on their different sides, and any potential hazards in their way, which they receive through headphones. Digital creator Umesh Pandya was especially careful in crafting the language used in the vocal commands, as they are the only cues that will be leading the user through the underground systems.

Having received a one million dollar grant from Google in December of 2015 as part of their disabilities impact challenge so Wayfindr can be developed further and to develop the world’s first open standard for blind navigation, the platform has seen trial runs in multiple London stations, stations in Sydney, and, according to an interview in the American Institute of Graphic Arts, there may soon be trial runs in select global cities as well as in the United States.

Wayfindr also hopes to expand to stores and other crowded, public areas where the visually impaired might need additional guidance.

To see this navigating tool in action, watch the video below:


+subway systems

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