U.K.-based app will help visually impaired passengers navigate Metro system

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo

WayMap is currently preparing a version of the program that would accommodate passengers using wheelchairs, and developers hope to introduce other app features that could aid deaf and deaf-blind passengers.

A navigation app aiding visually impaired passengers will launch at 30 Metro train stations and 1,000 bus stops by September.

Officials announced at a press conference last week that WayMap, a UK-based system, has partnered with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind – a D.C. nonprofit aiding the District’s blind or visually impaired population – to deliver auditory instructions to blind and low vision commuters like how many steps to take or what degree to turn to reach their destination. Officials said the free app began operating in the Brookland, Silver Spring and Braddock Road stations in late May, and the entire Metro system will operate on the system by early 2023.

“Our goal is to provide our customers with reliable service,” said Christiaan Blake, the managing director of WMATA’s access services at the press conference. “It’s not always easy, but each day we’re making strides towards that goal, and this partnership that you’re hearing about today is another step towards that goal.”

The navigation system’s instructions are accurate up to three feet away from the destination and only require software in participating stations to monitor the movement of commuters. The new app has already seen success in London’s Arriva Rail, and various New York City subway stations are currently trialing the system.

“It made me feel so comfortable, and that was my first time using the metro system since I lost my sight,” Shirell Scott, who lost her sight during the pandemic, told the DCist. “Trying it let me know ‘Oh, I have that independence back. As long as I have this option, I can go and do the Metro and do everything that I did before.’”

WayMap is currently preparing a version of the program that would accommodate passengers using wheelchairs, and developers hope to introduce other app features that could aid deaf and deaf-blind passengers.

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