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 is one of the winners of the first d-LAB societal challenge Empowering people with disabilities through mobile technologies.
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 has joined forces with d-LAB, ILUNION and the University of Oslo to set up a pilot project that 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 of Las Arenas shopping centre in Barcelona with multiple shops and indoor routes to travel. The solution used beacons network installed in shops and other strategic points in Las Arenas that allowed to track a person´s location and enabled to guide them on their route via their mobile phone.
Following the success of the pilot test, involving 40 users selected by the ONCE Foundation and ONCE Cataluña, Las Arenas shopping centre will be the first in Spain to implement this technology and become fully accessible.
The final results were announced during the Mobile World Congress 2018 and the pilot conclusions were also feed into the improvement of the protocol’s audio instructions and content of the open standard.
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.