Innovative Policy 2018 on Accessibility

ITU standard on indoor audio navigation system for the blind

Wayfindr, an Open Standard to make audio navigation systems accessible for persons with visual impairments, was approved in March 2017 as the first Open Standard for indoor audio navigation by the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency. It becomes the world’s first internationally-recognised standard for accessible audio navigation. Adoption of the standard gives governments, companies, and NGOs around the world an accepted benchmark for indoor audio navigation systems, along with a host of resources to implement the navigation technology in their own organizations, which in turn helps users to benefit from a consistent and reliable navigation experience wherever they go.

About the policy at a glance
Laws and regulations involved:ITU Recommendation ITU-T F.921
Responsible Body:International Telecommunication Union
Country
of Implementation
Global

FACTS & FIGURES

  • 193 UN member states and 800 companies recognize Wayfindr as the benchmark for indoor audio navigation.
  • The technology is currently tested in five countries: Australia, Norway, Spain, The United Kingdom and The United States

PROBLEMS TARGETED

According to a 2012 report by the Royal National Institute of Blind People, 43 per cent of persons with vision impairments would like to leave their home more often, but traveling independently through indoor built environments such as public offices and transport terminals can be a difficult and intimidating experience.

SOLUTION, INNOVATION, AND IMPACT

Wayfindr is an Open Standard for indoor navigation technologies that provides audio instructions to users’ smartphones to help them find their way through built environments. Wayfindr is also the name of the London-based non-profit organization that created the Open Standard, based on the principles of user-centred design and extensive user research. An audio navigation system can use a wide range of technologies, such as Bluetooth low energy beacons set up at fixed locations to broadcast information/directions regarding the users’ surroundings, normally to a smartphone app: for example, “You are halfway down the ramp to the ticket hall – turn left and walk down the stairs – there are nine steps.”

A woman in the subway station using her blind stick and Wayfindr.The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication – approved the technology as an international Open Standard in March 2017. By becoming an ITU standard, the technology is recognized as the benchmark for indoor audio navigation by all 193 UN member states and 800 tech companies, including such major companies as Google and Microsoft.

The standard provides all interested parties with a toolkit of information to help implement an accessible audio navigation system in their own countries or to develop products and services that work with the technology, such as mobile phone applications. The toolkit provides factual information, such as details on vision impaired people; recommendations for best practices, such as on installing the beacons; guidelines on development; suggestions for further investigation; and considerations for app development.

Information is freely available to help venue owners and their consultants to make their locations accessible, developers and designers of products and services to offer wayfinding for vision impaired people, and researchers to conduct research and experiments in the area of wayfinding.

OUTLOOK, TRANSFERABILITY AND FUNDING

Trials of the technology were initially carried out on the London Underground system, and additional trials have since taken place in Sydney, Oslo, and Barcelona, and Venice. The A woman with visual impairments using a blind stick and Wayfindr on a subway station.technology was also used at the M-Enabling Summit in June 2017 (promoting accessible and assistive technologies) by Right-Hear – an Israel-based advanced orientation provider using the wayfinding technology via a mobile phone app – thus allowing visually impaired participants to navigate the conference with ease.

Wayfindr plans to continue to improve the standard and welcomes input from stakeholders. Its overall aim is for the standard to accelerate the universal adoption of indoor audio navigation as a mainstream feature of all built environments and public transport infrastructures.

Wayfindr is also developing a software accreditation check that will allow venues and apps to show they comply with the standard, and a training course for rolling out the navigation systems.

CONTACT

Tiernan Kenny
Wayfindr
tiernan@wayfindr.net
www.wayfindr.net/

Masahito Kawamori
International Telecommunication Union
masahito.kawamori@ties.itu.int

FACTSHEET

Download factsheet as accessible pdf
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