San Antonio Pilot Will Give Visually Impaired Residents Assistance with Public Transit

VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio, TX is planning a six-month pilot project with NaviLens and the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind to provide an app giving visually impaired residents assistance in using public transit. People from Lighthouse will test the system and VIA will then gather data from the test run and interview the users about their experience before deciding how to proceed. 

The NaviLens app uses a smartphone to read codes on signage – such as found at train platforms, ticket kiosks, and on sidewalks – to provide information such as real-time bus schedules. The codes are detectable from 20 to 150 feet (~ 6 – 46 meters) away, depending on the size of the code and – unlike the traditional QR codes that require users to focus their phone cameras squarely on the code – users do not need to know exactly where the code is placed in order to read it. The NaviLens technology has the capability of reading encoded information in 33 different languages and providing translation. Besides transit schedules, the codes can be programmed to deliver a range of information, such as the location of an elevator, public health messaging, and detour updates.  

GPS systems are often used to aid in wayfinding, but their inaccuracy and inadequate map data can only bring users within the vicinity of their destination, but not to the exact location. The codes are intended to “solve the last-few-yards wayfinding problem,” Javier Pita, CEO of NaviLens, said. 

“VIA is always looking for ways to enhance the rider experience. The NaviLens technology provides riders more flexibility and helps them make connections more easily,” said Lorraine Pulido, communications manager for VIA Metropolitan Transit.