What does “Accessibility for All” mean for the future of digital mobility?

Transit agencies play a fundamental role in connecting communities and people from all walks of life on different social, economic, and physical levels. Making mobility more inclusive and accessible is both a privilege and a challenge. Thankfully, today’s technologies offer new-and-improved tools to help make “Accessibility for All” a reality. 

Accessibility for All

Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, transportation providers have made great strides in improving accessibility for the disabled. Still, some challenges remain – we’ve yet to create a truly seamless journey for the mobility or otherwise impaired. Many physical obstacles have been successfully overcome, but in the age of smartphones and mobile apps, digital assistive technology still holds plenty of untapped opportunity.

“Accessibility for All” is a concept focused on enabling access for people with disabilities or special needs through the use of assistive technology - which could include anything from a hearing aid to Apple’s VoiceOver feature. When examining the past 30 years since the ADA, cities and institutions have vastly improved in their efforts to better serve the disabled and impaired. We’ve all benefited from inclusively designed technologies and even physical architecture (like elevators). That’s why “Accessibility for All” includes everyone, and in the context of transportation, all riders.

Accessibility for Public Transit

So, what does it look like for assistive technologies to saturate the digital characteristic of public transit systems? We believe it simply begins with offering impaired riders the same tools already being offered to the non-impaired. INIT has contributed to making public transit more accessible by designing a passenger information and journey planning app called ASSISTIVEtravel. The app offers personalized ride hailing assistance and journey guidance for riders with visual, hearing or mobility impairments.

ASSISTIVEtravel allows riders to notify the bus operator of the type of assistance required. Operators receive the notification through their on-board data terminal. The notification indicates the riders's ability level, allowing the driver to prepare for the rider boarding and even inform them if the wheel chair space is available or not.

The app supports passengers at all stages of their bus trip: before the stop with estimated arrival times, at the stop with alerts when it’s time to board the vehicle, and on-board announcements for when it’s time to alight. The announcements are especially helpful to hearing impaired riders using the T-Loop feature which provides a magnetic, wireless signal that is picked up by hearing aids.

For visually impaired riders, the map, as well as any augmented reality features, are disabled. By placing their profile setting to "visually impaired" (VI), a simplified layout of the app is activated for easy text-to-speech navigation and journey guidance. 

Case Study: MAVIS

INIT Asia-Pacific recently partnered with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and SG Enable to make mobility in Singapore more inclusive and accessible. The heart of the project is the ASSISTIVEtravel smartphone app developed by INIT.

The app was recently awarded for Special Recognition at the UITP Global Public Transport Summit in Stockholm under the Diversity & Inclusion category. 



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