New app to help people with disabilities navigate public transit

Posted on March 13, 2019

Focus Group at the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Photo: Feonix Mobility Rising
Focus Group at the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Photo: Feonix Mobility Rising

Feonix - Mobility Rising and its partners, the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (TheRide) and Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living (AACIL) are setting out to create supportive technology providing step-by-step assistance for people with disabilities in navigating transit.

Using the state-of-the-art locational platform, what3words, Feonix is developing an app, called "Connect," that will provide turn-by-turn audio and visual directions for passengers navigating public transportation, as well as nuanced information most helpful for people with disabilities.

"New mobility tech like Feonix's Connect app are needed now more than ever," says Julia Roberts, TheRide Regional Planner. "By helping customers to age in place with increasing rates of visual, hearing, and other cognitive impairments, TheRide can aid in improving each individual's transport experience, as well as the quality of life for their family, friends, and community."

The aging population in the Ann Arbor area and across the country are growing at unprecedented rates, especially as baby boomers retire. Specifically, with regard to vision and hearing disabilities, the 2016 US Census indicated that:

  • 7.5 million Americans identify as having "significant vision loss," encompassing both near or total blindness, and "trouble seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses."
  • 11.5 million individuals report significant hearing difficulty.

The what3words technology will be utilized with the "Connect" app, will enable users to gain three-meter accuracy to pick-up or drop off locations for fixed and paratransit service- providing a better experience and less stress for both passengers and drivers. Traditionally, addresses can cover an entire block or even several acres. With what3words, users can precisely schedule pickups and drop-offs at a specific entrance, landmark, or facility.

The project is set to launch the prototype for demonstration this summer and is expected to be released in the app stores this fall. Feonix plans to bring this innovative technology to public transit agencies across the U.S. and around the world.

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