The visually challenged in Mumbai will no longer need to depend on co-passengers to board a bus. A click of a button will help visually impaired people identify the route number and also locate the bus door, helping them travel independently.
On Friday, the Xavier’s Resource Centre for Visually Challenged (XRCVC), in collaboration with Assistech of IIT-Delhi will launch OnBoard, a bus identification system, at the BEST Undertaking premises at Colaba.
Developed by IIT-Delhi, OnBoard is a bus identification device that was first tested with a few buses operated by the Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System. In Mumbai, pilot trials of the device took place on two BEST routes between February and April.
The device, said to be first-of-its-kind globally, works on radio frequency and consists of a small user module and a bus module, with a speaker fitted next to the front door of the bus. Following a query on the number of the approaching bus, the bus module within the radius will mention the same. The user then selects the number, which alerts the driver through the bus module that a visually impaired person is waiting to board.
“Our centre is committed to promoting accessibility with the focus on independent living. Through our own independent research, we found that travel was posing the biggest obstacle,” said professor Sam Taraporevala, director, XRCVC. “Lots of people needed the mechanism by which they can access transport independently.”
In the first phase of the Mumbai trial, more than 100 visually impaired people boarded buses, with a research team observing, to test OnBoard units fixed on 16 buses on route numbers 121 and 134, operated from BEST Backbay depot.
In the second phase, OnBoard units were fixed on all of the 24 BEST buses covering the same two routes, with nearly 20 visually impaired people conducting about 350 unsupervised boardings.
“We do hope this partnership would continue till we are able to successfully meet this key mobility challenge of the visually impaired,” said professor M Balakrishnan, principal investigator and mentor, Assistech, IIT Delhi.
The next stage would be to install the device on at least 1,000 buses and use it in a natural environment.
* Four agencies – IIT Delhi, Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged, Mumbai First and BEST – have worked in collaboration during various stages.
* Pilot trials were largely funded by the department of science and technology under its TIDE (Technology Interventions for the Disabled and Elderly) scheme. The balance funding was routed through Project Access – an XRCVC-Sightsavers initiative.