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SI develops RideKC app for Kansas City Area Transportation Authority for visually impaired riders

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On any transit journey, the beginning and ending stages are often the most difficult due to challenges of changing conditions, inconsistent pathways, lack of appropriate signage, and complex transit stations.

In particular, riders with vision impairment struggle to locate stops without assistance from others, especially when encountering new places and routes. Missteps or lost minutes can cause a rider to miss their bus or train, exacerbated for individuals with vision impairment, and referred to as the last mile challenge. As a result, cities are seeking innovative, effective, and affordable smart solutions to make public transportation inclusive and user-friendly. Sensible Innovations partnered with Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) to meet the demands of the last mile wayfinding challenge for KCATA’s riders with vision impairment.

Sensible Innovations developed RideKC Navigator; a transit app powered by Aware Audible Wayfinding. The solution uses Bluetooth low energy (BLE) sensors placed at bus stops and street corners and tied to description curated by Alphapointe to provide pedestrian trip planning and navigation assistance along a rider’s entire transit trip. Alphapointe provided O&M services and developed t descriptions about stops and street corners integrated into the solution.

Alphapointe is the leader for vision rehabilitation, education, and advocacy. Its orientation and mobility specialists (O&Ms) assist the visually impaired in navigating safely and efficiently. Alphapointe’s O&M services include teaching travel skills for all environments, sighted guide, use of all forms of public transportation, and preparation for guide dog school referrals.

The RideKC Navigator app will aid users in locating bus stops, traveling to stops using pedestrian pathways, obtaining real-time transit information, and alerts for boarding and departing buses. The app will benefit all riders by making the sidewalk and transit network more understandable.

The mobile app uses landmark-based navigation with descriptions optimized for the individuals with vision impairment to help riders create cognitive maps about these otherwise difficult to navigate spaces. The app provides real-time transit bus arrival and departure data, and the BLE sensors network combine to ensure information at the location where and when it matters most to a rider, negating the need for anyone to memorize landmarks and pathways. This solution creates freedom for individuals with vision impairment, as all routes and bus schedules are planned and explored by the rider instead or based upon an assistant’s availability.

The network infrastructure is scalable and can be quickly expanded in the future to meet the changing needs of any transit system.