A new wristband device, which can help visually and hearing impaired people navigate the UK bus network, has undergone trials in Nottingham this week. The “ViBus” was designed by Daria Buszta, an 18-year-old student at Bilborough College and involves Bluetooth-enabled wristbands, which vibrate when a passenger approaches their stop. If the trial, hosted by Nottingham-based Yourbus, is deemed successful the device could go on to improve the lives of millions of disabled people in the UK.
At present Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) statistics show that almost two million people in the UK are living with sight loss. It is predicated that by 2050, the number of people with sight loss in the UK will double to nearly four million. Findings from the RNIB’s recent ‘My Voice’ survey confirmed that barriers to travel and transport remain a major issue for blind and partially sighted people. The results revealed that 40 per cent of blind and partially sighted people were not able to make all the journeys that they wanted or needed to.
Daria came up with the ViBus idea during the All-Aboard competition run by the Transport Systems Catapult on behalf of the Department for Transport. The competition invited students aged 14-18 from all over the UK to come up with innovative solutions to make buses more accessible for people with visual or hearing impairments. The ViBus design won after impressing an expert panel of judges, headed by the UK Transport Minister. The prototype has been developed by Southampton based Mobile Onboard.
Transport Systems Catapult All-Aboard Principal Technologist, Jamie Chan-Pensley commented:
“It’s been an amazing journey from Daria presenting her idea at the All Aboard competition last year to this live trial of the device. The project is proof that even simple technological innovations can really change people’s lives for the better and we are grateful for the support of all the businesses and organisations who have contributed to get us this far. We’ve received some great feedback from the trial and we hope we can take the project to the next level, where we can supply these devices to the members of the public who need them.”
The project has attracted the interest of major charities like Guide Dogs and the RNIB who have provided support for the trial.
Steve Tyler, Head of Solutions Strategy and Planning at RNIB, said
“Bus travel is a lifeline for many people with sight loss who rely on buses to take them to work, the shops or just to get out and about with friends. However, we know that barriers to travel and transport remain a major issue for blind and partially sighted people.
“Technology has an important role to play, along with good customer service from bus companies and drivers, and it’s great to see accessibility being built in from the start through exciting new ideas like these wristbands.”
James White, Senior Campaign Manager at the charity Guide Dogs said:
“Buses are vital for people living with sight loss. Yet our research suggests that as many as two thirds of people with sight loss have missed their bus stop at some point. It is crucial that people can use buses with confidence, have information about where they are on their bus journey and when their next stop is coming up. Without this, many are put off using this important form of public transport, robbing them of their independence and leaving them unable to do everyday things that many other people take for granted.”
All-Aboard competition winner, Daria Buszta from West Bridgford in Nottingham, said:
“Seeing the wristband in action felt surreal. Thinking that it was once just an idea in my head and now it was actually working and has got to this stage made me very happy. I really hope that it will help people and it was nice to see that all the hard work that has been put into by so many people is paying off. I wore one of the wristbands and tried it out and when it buzzed it actually gave me a buzz inside. It was great to see it working and I felt relieved as, although it’s quite a simple idea, there are a lot of factors involved.”
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