Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Helping the disabled make use of public transport

06.10.2008
In an ideal world, all buses would be wheelchair friendly and train timetables would be available as audio recordings for the visually impaired. Reality has yet to catch up with that vision, so instead European researchers have developed a personal navigation aid to help disabled people make use of public transport.

By letting disabled people know in advance which bus routes, subway lines or rail links are disabled friendly, people with disabilities can plan journeys that they may otherwise be unable to make unassisted. Once on the move, location-based services accessed via a smart phone or handheld computer can highlight points of interest, warn them of potential obstacles and let them change their itinerary as needs be.

“Until you meet with disabled people and talk to them about their needs it is hard to imagine just how difficult using public transport is,” notes Gary Randall, a researcher at BMT in the United Kingdom. “They are scared of finding themselves isolated, of being abandoned in the world.”

Someone confined to a wheelchair, for example, may end up stuck at a bus stop many kilometres from home if a bus with wheelchair access never arrives, or a blind person could easily become lost trying to make a train connection if there is no one to assist him or her. For that reason, few disabled people use public transport alone in what constitutes a severe restriction of their freedom and autonomy.

To address that problem, researchers working in the EU-funded MAPPED project developed personal navigation software designed specifically to meet the needs of people with disabilities. The system extends technology used in now commonplace GPS navigation aids. It incorporates information about public transport timetables and routes as well as so-called points of interest to disabled people in what the researchers describe as the first application of its kind.

Accessability info in advance

“A point of interest for someone with a disability is often very different from what [it] would be for you or me,” says Randall who coordinated the initiative.

He notes, for example, that someone with limited mobility would want to know if a building has an elevator or if you have to go up steps to enter a restaurant, while a blind person would find it useful to know in advance if a certain supermarket has someone available to help with their shopping. That information is obtained wirelessly from a preloaded database. The data is then presented to the user in a variety of formats tailored to their individual needs, including visual maps and audio instructions.

“Curiously, despite the wide variety of disabilities, we found that the needs of different groups of test users were very similar regardless of whether they were in a wheelchair, visually impaired or had hearing disabilities,” Randall says. “They all want the reassurance that having a personal navigation aid can provide.”

In trials in Dublin and in Winchester in the United Kingdom, people with different types of disabilities tested different versions of the system. Their reactions were generally positive, with 84 percent saying they would find a route planner such as that developed in MAPPED useful in their daily lives.

Nonetheless, the trials identified several challenges that must be overcome before such a system goes into commercial use.

Users tended to find the off-the-shelf PDA on which the software was installed difficult to use because of its small buttons and screen, while the accuracy and reliability of the GPS information needs to be improved to make micro-level route planning effective. New mobile devices with better user interfaces and incorporating digital compasses, coupled with the roll-out of Europe’s more accurate Galileo positioning system should solve those problems over the coming years.

“Usability and reliability are obviously crucial,” Randall says.

An even bigger problem, however, may be gathering the information about public transport routes, timetables and, especially, the accessibility features of museums, restaurants, shops and other points of interest.

“For the trials, we had to go around and visit restaurants and cinemas individually to see what their accesses were like – that is evidently not a practical solution,” Randall notes.

Instead, the researchers have considered allowing users to add their own content or working with business directories to obtain the information.

In light of the challenges, Randall believes public-sector support will be essential if a navigation aid such as that developed in MAPPED, which was funded under the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme, is to be widely used.

In that vein, he foresees the system or elements of it being deployed in different European cities where local governments have the political will to make location-based services for disabled people, tourists and other users available.

Christian Nielsen | alfa
Further information:
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/90069

Further reports about: GPS MAPPED bus with wheelchair handheld computer public transport smart phone

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht New epidemic management system combats monkeypox outbreak in Nigeria
15.12.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

nachricht Gecko adhesion technology moves closer to industrial uses
13.12.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>