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 software speeds origami structure designs
12.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology

nachricht Seeing the next dimension of computer chips
11.10.2017 | Osaka University

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Ocean atmosphere rife with microbes

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Neutrons observe vitamin B6-dependent enzyme activity useful for drug development

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

NASA finds newly formed tropical storm lan over open waters

17.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>