ANN ARBOR, Mich. and LINCOLN, Neb., March 1, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Using public transportation can be incredibly intimidating, especially for those with hearing and vision impairments. Feonix - Mobility Rising and its partners, the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (TheRide) and Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living (AACIL) are setting out to create supportive technology providing step-by-step assistance for people with disabilities in navigating transit. Using the state-of-the-art locational platform, what3words, Feonix is developing an app, called "Connect," that will provide turn by turn audio and visual directions for passengers navigating the public transportation, as well as nuanced information most helpful for people with disabilities.
"We are incredibly honored to partner with TheRide, the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living, and what3words to tackle this challenge impacting millions of Americans and their quality of life," says Valerie Lefler, Feonix Executive Director. "It's an amazing opportunity to work with such innovative, passionate, and driven leaders in the community. Their dedication has been clear since we launched our project together, when within just three weeks we had three full focus groups with 25 staff and transportation operators in place, despite record-cold temperatures and ice on a day that shut down the local schools."
"New mobility tech like Feonix's Connect app are needed now more than ever," adds Julia Roberts, TheRide Regional Planner. "By helping customers to age in place with increasing rates of visual, hearing, and other cognitive impairments, TheRide can aid in improving each individual's transport experience, as well as the quality of life for their family, friends, and community."
The aging population in the Ann Arbor area and across the country are growing at unprecedented rates, especially as baby boomers retire. Specifically, with regard to vision and hearing disabilities, the 2016 US Census indicated that:
- 7.5 million Americans identify as having "significant vision loss," encompassing both near or total blindness, and "trouble seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses."
- 11.5 million individuals report significant hearing difficulty.
"There are accelerating advances around mobile devices and apps," says Will Purves, Director of Planning and Special Projects for the AACIL. "To be able to leverage the most advanced technology to improve lives for people with disabilities is incredibly important. And improving the transportation experience for those with disabilities, particularly those with vision and hearing impairments who rely heavily on public systems, is a tremendous opportunity."
The what3words technology will be utilized with the "Connect" app, will enable users to gain three meter accuracy to pick-up or drop off locations for fixed and paratransit service- providing a better experience and less stress for both passengers and drivers. Traditionally, addresses can cover an entire block or even several acres. With what3words, users can precisely schedule pickups and drop-offs at a specific entrance, landmark, or facility.
Arriving 'somewhere near' a destination is just not good enough. Travelers deserve to be able to reach the precise location that they want to go, stress-free." says Ashley Cashion, what3words VP USA. "what3words has given every 10ft x 10ft square in the world a unique 3 word address. We are thrilled to be working with the Feonix and TheRide to make it simpler for individuals to get to where they want to go, using just 3 words"
The project is set to launch the prototype for demonstration this summer and is expected to be released in the app stores this fall. Feonix plans to bring this innovative technology to public transit agencies across the U.S. and around the world.
This collaboration and project are made possible by the Michigan Department of Transportation as part of their Mobility Challenge grant program.
SOURCE Feonix - Mobility Rising