285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide: 39 million are blind and 246 have low vision, according to the WHO. One of the biggest challenges they face is not being able to navigate independently.
Research conducted in the UK revealed that nearly half of visually impaired people would like to leave their home more often. In response, in 2014 UK charity Royal Society for Blind Children (RSBC) and London-based digital technology innovators UsTwo came together to develop a ground breaking global solution to enable visually impaired people to navigate independently – Wayfindr Open Standard.
Wayfindr Open Standard is a comprehensive set of guidelines, tools and technology to integrate audio navigation into existing digital navigation products.
Wayfindr provides digital navigation makers (e.g. Google Maps) and owners of public spaces (e.g. a metro station) with the tools to provide visually impaired people with consistent, high quality digital navigation services. Wayfindr uses a sensor (beacons) network to track a person’s location and destination and activates the audio instructions on their mobile phone at the right time.
In this way, Wayfindr enables visually impaired people to navigate the world using audio instructions from their smartphones.
Wayfindr is one of the winners of the first societal challenge of d-LAB aiming at Empowering people with disabilities through mobile technologies.
Once the challenge winners were announced, the d-LAB team started working together with the team behind the winning proposal and has joined forces with ILUNION and University of Oslo in the ideation of the pilot project. The project aimed to validate both the solution in a real-world context of use and its social and economic impact.
The main objective of this pilot was to test Wayfindr Open Standard in order to guide visually impaired people through indoor spaces using audio instructions from their smartphones. More precisely, in a retail environment in Barcelona with multiple shops and routes to travel.
The solution was successfully tested by several volunteers (recruited by the ONCE Foundation) at the Arenas shopping center in Barcelona. The final results are going to be announced during the Mobile World Congress 2018.
Wayfindr enables visually impaired people to navigate the world using audio instructions from their smartphones, and in consequence helps to:
- Increase Independence
- Reduce reliance on availability of a sighted guide or other support,
- Increase confidence and reduce isolation
- Increase access to social & cultural opportunities, improved social networks
- Increase ability to access employment, education & training
The vision for the future is for Barcelona to become a truly inclusive city, with transport systems, shopping centres and other places using the open standard so vision impaired people can navigate independently across the city.
The lives of Barcelona’s visually impaired people could be transformed through increased independence, reducing isolation. And they’d benefit from greater access to recreational and essential services, such as healthcare and education.