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New app helps the blind safely find their way to the bus stop

BlindWays is available on the Apple App Store, and helps identify landmarks and other indicators that help the user determine if they are at the right spot to meet their ride.

A woman tries out the app in a new promotional video. Perkins/Screenshot

A new iPhone app developed in partnership with the Perkins School for the Blind will help the visually impaired find their way to bus stops — often a challenge for those using conventional GPS services on their smartphone.

BlindWays is available for free on the Apple App Store, and helps identify landmarks and other indicators so the user knows if they are at the right spot to meet their ride.

“We’re big believers in the power of technology to bring new solutions to old problems,” the school’s CEO and president Dave Power said at a news conference Tuesday. “One of those problems is finding the bus stop. It’s a harder problem than you may think for people that are visually impaired. If you can’t get to the bus stop on time, you’re not going to get to work, get to school or even to the movies.”

In an example discussed on the Perkins website, a user’s normal GPS may be able to get a pedestrian within 20 to 30 feet of a bus stop — but that’s when BlindWays kicks in, informing the user if he or she should, say, turn right at the metal trash can before discovering the stop on a patch of grass.

The app works through crowdsourcing, with other users uploading helpful information that should get a passenger within 5 feet of the bus stop — about the average length of a white cane, school officials said.

“We can pick [riders] up when they’re at the bus stop, and we can drop them off when they get to their destination,” state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack reportedly said. “But our drivers can’t know if someone who is standing 20 or 25 feet away is actually waiting for the bus or is just there for a completely different reason. So it’s very exciting to be part of this effort that will allow [more] riders to use the system.”

The app was created by Raizlabs, an app developer with an office in Boston, and was funded by Google Impact Challenges grant.

You can download it here.

 

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