Navigation app specialized to aid blind users partners with D.C. transit system

A sign at the Shaw-Howard University train station alerts riders of delays and recommends switching to Metrobus. By Michelle Levine.

Waymap, an app designed to help visually impaired users navigate the world around them, has partnered with Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), Verizon and the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind to assist customers at three Metro stations in the District, Waymap announced Tuesday. 

Though Waymap is a tool for people with visual disabilities, the app is marketed for anyone to use, regardless of disability, and has been tested in various cities in the United Kingdom and the United States. WMATA has installed Waymap at Silver Spring, Brookland and Braddock Road stations.

Tom Pey, the CEO and founder of Waymap, shared the purpose of the app and its importance to implement inclusivity in public transportation. “When I lost my sight, I lost my ability to explore the world around me. When I founded Waymap, I wanted it to be more than just a map. I wanted it to be a community of people who could come together supported by technology; where people who could get around could help those who needed a little extra support,” he said in the news release.

The app works by using detailed map data and sensor technology to turn the user’s phone into a precision navigation device, allowing the user to explore both indoors and outdoors. Using audio-navigation commands such as “turn right 90 degrees” or “turn left,” Waymap allows users with visual disabilities to safely navigate without the use of GPS. 

“METRO is one of the most important transportation providers in this region. …Our goal is to provide our customers with reliable service,” Christiaan Blake, WMATA’s managing director of accessibility services, said.This partnership that you’re hearing about today is another step towards that goal.”

Shirell Scott, a long-time Metrorail user, lost her vision during the pandemic. Scott described how public transportation was an important part of her and her family’s life, and spoke to her appreciation for Waymap.

“It [Waymap] made me feel so comfortable, and that was my first time using the Metro system since I lost my sight,” she said. “Trying that let me know I have that independence back.”

Disability advocacy group representatives were also in attendance at the partnership unveiling, such as National Institute of the Blind (NIB) President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Lynch. “I think it is a significant thing for people who are blind, in particular, in their ability to be able to independently get back and forth,” Lynch said. 

Lynch spoke to his excitement of the new Potomac Yard Station, a Washington Metro station that will open this fall near the NIB that will have Waymap access. “We’ll have our employees be able to safely travel back and forth,” he added.

Issues |Disability|Transportation

Region |Washington DC

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