New mobile app helps vision-impaired passengers to navigate London Underground

Navigating the London Underground has long been a daunting prospect for the blind and visually-impaired, but a new smartphone app hopes to change that.   

Developed by the Royal London Society of Blind People (RLSB) and design studio ustwo, the Wayfindr app is specifically designed to help blind and visually-impaired passengers find their way around the London Underground.

By positioning beacons which send out information via Bluetooth technology in and around various transport terminals, including tube stations, the app is able to pick up signals and transform them into signs and directions for passengers, optometry.co.uk reports.

Signal strength is used to decipher the location of the beacons, which are then relayed through voice prompts via a pair of bone-conducting headphones. However, a blind or visually-impaired passenger’s hearing will not be compromised by the headphones.

Transport for London (TfL) already offers assistance to blind or visually-impaired passengers, londonist.com notes, by providing members of staff who meet them at ticket gates and accompany them to the train, while also arranging for someone to meet them as they get off the train at another station.

Courtney Nugent, head of RLSB’s transport youth forum, said: “Wayfindr is a practical and affordable aid to navigation for vision impaired people. Our joint project with ustwo is a great example of how charities and the private sector can work together, applying the latest approaches in digital design to make a difference, rapidly.”