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Enabling Public Transport for Visually Impaired

Israeli startup Moovit, in collaboration with Microsoft and Aira, has now brought new possibilities for visually impaired passengers to navigate themselves while taking public transport through a new journey app. [1]

Through the Aira app, users can call a remote agent to direct them with help from the Moovit’s services to figure out their route by sharing a live stream from the mobile phone’s camera. The news of it is that Moovit’s route mapping services are now integrated into the new app so that the agents do not need to in parallel start a separate browser, which slows down the process. Agents will describe objects and read signs during the journey for the user so that he or she could reach the destination by public transport. This app enables the visually impaired to transport themselves independently and to feel more confident when they leave their homes. “You essentially have access to a pair of eyes that not only reads information to you but also looks at maps in real-time to direct you to where you’re going”, said Stacy Cervenka from the American Foundation for the Blind.

Customers in the US, Australia and New Zealand can now enjoy the service with the first five minutes of the call being free of charge. Aira also offers a pair of dedicated smart glasses with a 120-degree field of vision, allowing the remote agent to see what the user is seeing.

 

Personal Comments

As the world becomes more connected digitally, it has become harder for people who are less interested in digitalization or who do not have the same ability as the majority to catch up. However, it is comforting to learn that IT development companies are taking care of the needs of people with impairments. Within the Drive Sweden program, RISE has studied how visual and/or hearing impaired persons could travel on their own in an autonomous vehicle, documenting their reactions and analyzing how their needs of mobility can be satisfied through different kinds of technology (see the project page: Guidance for autonomous vehicles). After all, digital technology should not result in exclusion, but create opportunities to include people with different conditions and needs in the digital regime.

 

Written by Anne Faxér, RISE Viktoria.

 

Sources

1. 2019-11-28. New journey app to help visually impaired