Description: After discussing multiple ideas we decided in the end that we wanted to design a device that addressed difficulties in the area of transportation. Our primary focus was to make it easier for blind people to utilize bus stops found throughout where they live as well as helping them navigate to the bus stops. This device was designed specifically for people with this disability but has the potential to be used by anybody. Our group was interested in addressing these problems with public transportation because we understand from personal experience how difficult it can be. It is 10x harder when you are also facing a disability such as being blind. We believe that a device and system like the one proposed below is essential and would provide great benefits to the general public, especially those with a disability.
Ideation: There are two components to the device that we have designed in order to help those utilize bus stops that can be found throughout the town/city. They are as follows:
Bus Stop Interactive Map System
This is the primary system that can be found when you first get to the bus stop. The system provides a map that displays the buses that visit the stop you are at as well as the routes that they are taking. Along the bottom of the screen you are provided a bus ticker that provides the buses ETAs as well as their route number so that you can view the route they are taking on the map. At the very bottom of the system you can find two buttons. Upon pressing either one of these buttons the system will play through the speakers the ETAs of the next three buses as well as their next stop. This system helps provide a way for somebody who is blind to navigate around the city using the bus system without the need of another person’s assistance.
This simple device was designed specifically to help people that are visually impaired. It is a small device that you can hook on to your keychain that will help you navigate around the town/city to the desired bus stop. As you approach a bus stop the keychain will notify the user by saying something such as “Approaching bus stop (code)”. This alert is made to notify the user that they are near a specific bus stop and will help the user determine where exactly they are in the town/city.
There is also a small button located on the keychain that is used upon entering the bus stop. It can be difficult for somebody who is visually impaired to find the interactive map system located at the bus stop and then press the button on it. Therefore by pressing this button on the keychain the user will be able to activate the speaker system on the interactive map system that tells them the ETAs of the next three buses as well as the next stop they are heading for.
Our first sketch shows a visually impaired user navigating to the bus stop through the use of our system. We envisioned our system being implemented in the Blacksburg community. The keychain device will guide the user to the bus stop whenever the button is pressed. Then the keychain will notify the user they are at their destination through speech. The main map (right image) at the bus stop will then activate when the keychain device is activated in the vicinity. Once activated the main map will speak the bus schedule as well as the estimated time of arrival of the next bus.
This sketch shows how the keychain will detect the map system by once in the set range. The keychain when not in range will guide the user. Otherwise it would say the bus stop and bus schedule.
We prototyped the main map system that would be posted at bus stops in this box. The interactive map will show the route of the bus at the stop. This map is for the general public to better understand the bus schedule and estimated time of arrival. In the real system we want to implement a touch screen as well as subtitles for the deaf. For blind users the map system will use speech to present the schedule and estimated time of arrival. We used the kit given to simulate the button and the sound device for speech.
This project idea came up from a previous research paper I wrote for a technical writing class. It was originally intended to install digital signage at key bus stops that show a live map of the buses currently running. The goal was to ease the frustration of not knowing when the bus was coming; however, the designs excluded the visually impaired. It was interesting to iterate the design of a project I did a while ago with new knowledge of inclusive design. In hindsight, I was blind when designing the original system to a large part of potential users.
The process of designing the system started smoothly – just add an auditory component to the original system. But it quickly became difficult when the issue of getting a visually impaired person to a bus stop independently arose. Suddenly there was an influx of variables we could hardly account for such as if the person was in a new area or not, if the person had a smartphone or not, and how we would distribute keychains to name a few. This is when I saw the value of experience prototyping: a cheap and quick method of exploring design ideas to see whether the idea could solve a variable and a way to gain empathy for all parties involved.
I think the overall idea does a good job of both inclusive and universal design. The details of implementing the idea are still quite debatable, but I’m glad we were able to agree on the core functionality of the system. This pressure project was great as it opened my eyes to a wider array of things to consider when designing systems in the future.
While brainstorming ideas to narrow down our project, we came up with different possible systems. We than narrowed them down to three possible systems:
- A subtitle system for deaf folks. It will be a headgear or fancy glasses that will have voice-recognition capabilities. It will display text spoken by person on the display of the system.
- A wearable device that can detect white color paint, sound and approaching object. It can help blind people to cross the intersection.
- A system that provides real-time “talking stops” for blind/vision impaired people to more effectively use public transportation such as buses, trains, and subways independently. Such system on transportation vehicles would help riders get off at the right stop. It would also be useful for the general public.
We chose the third one because we believed the system to make significant difference in the society. Over the course of time, our roads and intersection has improved a lot; however, there still exists a huge room for further advances. People living in the city, or those walking alone on a quiet/ busy urban street needs safety. Our aim with this project is to support blind/vision-impaired people to help them cross street, ride public transportation and address other safety issues. In addition to improving life of people with disabilities, the system is also focused on normal people as well.
Moving forward, I liked this project because it helped me to think through the user’s perspectives. Thinking as a user helped me to reorganize my thought process to emphasize on usability of product. While sketching the prototype, I realized that a high-fidelity prototype for the primary system, an electronic box with interactive Map System could be made. Reflecting on the project and inputs from last reading assignment, as an engineer, it is important to step into the user’s shoes to design efficiently.
I was interested in this system out of the three because public transport is in the greater interest of everyone. A system for the general public would have the greatest impact as well as inclusion for everyone. Designing for the blind was difficult because we did not know how they use the bus currently. My assumption was they used their smartphone GPS or have been following a routine imbedded. However we decided to assume users could not afford nor want to use smartphones. This was to streamline the design and use the cheapest design of a keychain. Then we agreed to simulate this system into the BT Transit for familiarity.
The main service of the system is the map posted at the bus stop. This design was simpler because it was the ideal system. The main map could add more attributes to design for inclusion. This pressure project was useful in understanding the difficulties for designing for a disability. In the limited time we had it was difficult to empathize with the particular group. In conclusion, I think our system can help the general public and could be improved for the blind by further research.
After discussing the three different types of devices/systems that we could design, I felt that the public transportation one would have been the most beneficial one to build. Using the bus system anywhere can be difficult and when you are facing a disability such as being blind it can feel near impossible. We decided that building a device to help with navigating bus stops and routes would be useful to the general public and by adding a simple device such as the keychain it could even be useful to those who are visually impaired. It took a bit of discussion for us to come to an agreement on the design of the keychain as none of us really had any experience with how somebody who is visually impaired uses the bus system. I feel that the design that we came up for the keychain would be the most practical as it was something small and simple and at the same time interacted with the device that we were installing at the bus stops themselves.
The device that we designed specifically for the bus stops themselves are unique in my opinion. I have used various bus systems in different cities and I have never seen anything like we designed being used. This device helps provide real-time information to those using the bus system and can be used by those who are blind and/or deaf with ease. I believe that this is a system that could truly be put in place and would be extremely beneficial to anyone that uses the bus system around their city/town.
Overall I believe that the devices that we built are innovative. They can be used by anybody in order to help them navigate around the city they live in without having to worry about getting lost or taking the wrong bus. This system makes it even easier for those who are visually impaired to utilize the resources that are provided throughout where they live. With more time and research it would be possible to add even more useful features such as real-time bus tracking and possibly an app for a smartphone. As it stands now though, I believe the devices we have built would be a big game changer for how people use the bus system.