Wayfindr revolutionises travel for blind people

Wayfindr win top award for technology that revolutionises travel for blind people


Wayfindr_AwardAn open standard that helps vision impaired people navigate the world independently using their smart phones has scooped a top honour.

Wayfindr beat off stiff competition to take home the coveted AbilityNet Accessibility Award at this year’s Tech4Good innovation showcase.

With so much buzz surrounding this exciting new invention, we wanted to find out more.

Read our chat with Katherine Payne, marketing and communication lead at Wayfindr, who has been involved from the start, and find out how travel for blind people is on course to change dramatically.

  

What is Wayfindr?

WayfindrIt’s an open standard for digital and audio navigation. It came about following a collaboration between the Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB) Youth Forum and digital product studio Ustwoback in 2014.

 

Our goal has always been to help bind and partially sighted people move around more self-sufficiently, and being able to travel independently using public transport is a major challenge for vision impaired people. This was one of the key issues highlighted by the Youth Forum’s Manifesto

We started out by creating an app that people can use on their smartphones, but after our trials, we soon understood there’s a global appetite and potential to take Wayfindr further as a standard.

How does it work?

Our app uses beacon technology to guide vision impaired people through and around urban environments using the smartphone in their pocket.

It communicates using Bluetooth signals and can, for instance, let a user know when entering a train station how to get to their particular platform.

How did Wayfindr come to life?

With the help of the RLSB Youth Forum and vision impaired volunteers, we’ve carried out successful trials in both London and Sydney central train stations.

We first put Wayfindr through its paces at London Pimlico station in February last year, and rounded off 2015 with a larger scale trial in London Euston. Our volunteers selected their destination and were guided, via audio directions triggered by signals from beacons installed throughout the station.

The trials showed the system can work reliably within the Tube network and we were also able to test and refine the Wayfindr Open Standard for audio navigation.

We were thrilled with the results. And it was this experience that helped us to realise the global potential of Wayfindr.

What’s in store for Wayfindr?

Being usedIn some situations, Wayfindr could be an alternative to a sighted guide, giving people more choice in how they travel. We recognise it would take a lot of reassurance for users to put their trust in that, and so a consistent standard of information and how that’s communicated is needed.

It became clear that we needed to go beyond an app. And in May this year we released the first working draft of the Wayfindr Open Standard.

It means software developers and venue owners from around the world can come together and contribute to the improvement of blind navigation services.

The open standard is built on a foundation of rigorous user research and testing. It feeds into digital navigation services, apps, and the built environment to create consistent, seamless, and reliable experiences across locations, services and platforms.

So for instance, Wayfindr would not be limited to one app or provider and could be integrated into other popular navigations services, like Google Maps, meaning that systems powered by Wayfindr become available to everyone and anyone, as well as the vision impaired.

It’s the first tangible step on our global journey, and we’re working with our worldwide community to develop it further.

We’re looking forward to completing some further trials later this year.

What does winning the Tech4Good AbilityNet Accessibility Award mean?

It was really fantastic, especially considering those people who’ve won this award in the past. For us to be recognised on the same level is something quite special and humbling.

We’re very proud of Wayfindr and this award helps to reinforce our product as a mark of quality.

Find out more about Wayfindr and watch the technology in action (3-minute video).

Check out the Tech4Good awards

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