In January 2017, RSBC merged with the Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB). Although we are now called RSBC, there may be some references to RLSB in the following article.
What if vision impaired people could navigate independently using their smartphones?
Wayfindr is the first open standard for audio-based navigation, stemming from a productive collaboration between ustwo (a global digital product studio) and the RLSB Youth Forum.
To tackle the challenge of independent travel for vision impaired people, Wayfindr is setting the standard for audio navigation using your smartphone. We are working so that wherever you are in the world, indoors or outdoors, you can navigate independently.
Our latest trial guides participants through Euston Tube station, giving audio directions from a prototype smartphone app that interacts with beacons installed throughout the station.
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The Wayfindr Story
In March 2014 the RLSB Youth Forum released England’s first ever manifesto for vision impaired young people. It represents the views of vision impaired young people, to bring the community together and make changes that will improve life for future generations. One of the key issues highlighted in the manifesto is transport:
“Just like many 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.”
ustwo worked with members of the Youth Forum to imagine technology-enabled ways to make independent travel more feasible. Following journeys by the ustwo team on the London Underground under conditions of simulated limited sight, and the rapid prototyping and testing of potential solutions with Youth Forum members, a working prototype of Wayfindr was created.
The Wayfindr Standard
The more we explored the world of navigation apps, the more it became clear that what was needed was a consistent standard to be implemented across wayfinding systems. This will open up a world where vision impaired people are no longer held back by their sight loss. To make this a reality, in September 2015 we launched Wayfindr, a new nonprofit venture alongside the ustwo to create the first Open Standard for Audio-based Wayfinding.
The Wayfindr Standard consists of guidelines on how to best integrate Wayfindr in your built environment or digital navigation service, built on a foundation of rigorous user research. Wayfindr creates an experience for vision impaired people that is consistent, seamless and reliable, empowering them to move independently through their environment. Read more on www.wayfindr.net.
Wayfindr began trialling a complex installation in London’s Euston Station in November 2015, investigating how the system could work across a large station both for vision impaired people and the station operators. Read more about the London Underground trial.
Wayfindr: The Next Steps
In December 2015 Google.org supported Wayfindr through the Global Impact Challenge: Disabilities. RLSB recieved a $1m grant towards the Wayfindr project, which will allow Wayfindr to set the open standard. The first release of the Wayfindr Standard, for underground and rail stations was launched in May 2016 – you can view the Open Standard here.
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Want to get in touch about this? Contact Wayfindr’s Andy Devine at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 3198 0225.