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London Underground tests phone app for blind people



Wayfindr interacts with beacons to provide audio navigation in crowded areas

London Underground is providing a test site at Euston Station for a digital navigation system to help blind and partially sighted people find their way around urban environments.

Named Wayfindr, it uses a prototype smartphone app to interact with beacon technology and provide audio directions.

The technology has been developed by the Royal London Society for Blind People’s (RLSB) Youth Forum and digital product studio ustwo, and London Underground commissioned the trial to discover whether the system could work reliably across its network. This follows a pilot at the smaller, less busy Pimlico station early this year.

David Waboso, London Underground’s capital programmes director, said the project is aimed at helping vision-impaired people travel more independently.

Smartphone revolution

Dr Tom Pey, chief executive of RLSB and chair of Wayfindr, said: “Smartphones have revolutionised the lives of blind people, giving us a level of independence that 20 years ago we couldn’t have imagined. 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.”

Wayfindr is currently supported by a $1 million grant from Google as part of its Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities programme, which invites applications from projects that seek to solve problems for people living with disabilities, through technology.

It plans to run trials in other urban settings, and to launch a set of guidelines for audio navigation of visually impaired people early next year. Named the Wayfindr Standard, it will provide support for the developers of digital navigation services and owners of the relevant locations.

Image from Wayfindr through Flickr



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