MBTA Testing Blind Rider Navigation System

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority launched a free six-month technology pilot program on May 1 called “AccessAI” from Aria; a system that connects blind or low vision users with highly trained sighted agents via a smartphone video mobile application to provide live and on-demand visual information about a user’s surroundings.

[Above photo by MBTA.]

Aira’s visual interpreter service will be available to riders for free throughout the MBTA’s subway, bus, ferry, and commuter rail systems during the six-month pilot, which runs through October 31 and comes at no cost to the MBTA.

Both MBTA and Aira added that users will be regularly polled on the mobile app’s effectiveness, with their responses and other data to be analyzed by upon completion of the pilot in order to chart the potential next steps for longer-term deployment of this service.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Used previously at places including the Perkins School for the Blind and Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, free access to Aira’s mobile app is also available at Massport’s Boston Logan International Airport and Worcester Regional Airport, the company noted.

The MBTA said customers interested in accessing this app within its system should visit the MBTA website and AccessAI.today to download it and sign up for training sessions offered by the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

“Technology is enhancing transit infrastructure,” noted Sassy Outwater-Wright, MABVI’s executive director, in a statement. “This pilot program gives us the opportunity to unite people, technology, and mobility in ways that have never been tried before. I want to see how far we can go with this.”

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