News Item

Tube navigation for the visually impaired

A ground-breaking app is being developed to guide the visually impaired on the London Underground.

The app stems from a group of young people with sight problems wanting to navigate the tube system independently. The technology - using Bluetooth beacons - is being tested by Transport for London (TfL), which believes that it could eventually be used in all busy rail stations and airports.

Members of the Youth Forum of the Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB) decided that they wanted independence - currently most have to rely on friends to help them learn routes or phone ahead for assistance from staff. Many do not feel confident about using the whole network. So the group teamed up with digital products designer 'ustwo', which devised a system which was effective below ground.

Bluetooth beacons (with a range of ~10-100 m) transmit signals which can be picked up by smartphones and other mobile devices. They transmit audible directions to users via 'bone conduction earphones - allowing them to hear sounds around them as well. The directions warn users when they are approaching escalators and ticket barriers and which platforms they may be approaching.

One of the trials participants comments 'This technology has given me loads of confidence - its given me the chance to be independent and be really free. I feel like I can leave my door without having to wait for someone for assistance'.

London Underground says it will continue with trials with a view to introducing the system at a wider range of stations.

Details from the BBC below . .

  • 08 March 2015
  • RIN

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