Dec 6, 2021 - Technology

Tech helps visually impaired passengers master public transit

Image of a visually impaired man with a WeWalk "smart cane" riding the subway.

People with low vision can navigate public transit better with Moovit's app and WeWalk's smart cane. Photo: Moovit

People with limited vision now have access to technology designed to help them independently navigate public transportation more easily.

Why it matters: Knowing which bus just arrived or when a particular subway stop is approaching are privileges that sighted people take for granted. People with limited vision often have to rely on fellow passengers for help.

What's happening: WeWALK, the maker of a smart cane for those living with sight loss, has teamed up with Intel-owned Moovit, a trip planning app, to help sight-challenged people use public transit safely and confidently.

The big picture: There are more than 253 million visually impaired people worldwide, many of whom rely on a cane to get around.

  • WeWALK's smart cane, invented in 2019, warns users of obstacles like low-hanging tree branches, through ultrasonic sensors and a vibrating handle.
  • It also has a Bluetooth connection, built-in touchpad and voice assistance, so blind pedestrians can interact with their smartphone without removing it from their pocket.

What's new: WeWALK is now integrating its smart cane technology into Moovit's transit app, which combines official information from local transit agencies with crowdsourced data to recommend the best route.

  • That means blind passengers can navigate to the right bus stop more easily and get real-time information to know when their bus or train is arriving.
  • They can also get step-by-step accessible route guidance throughout their journey, including audio and text alerts when it is time to get off, and service alerts to re-route their journey in case of disruptions.

What they're saying: “While blind and partially sighted people have more independence than ever before, getting around via public transit can still be daunting and overwhelming," said Yovav Meydad, Moovit’s chief growth and marketing officer.

  • "Through our partnership, we aim to instill more reassurance in people by breaking down some of these mobility barriers, empowering them to access more opportunities available to them.”

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