Perth Busport uses dynamic technology to allocate buses to stands via large screens, but we needed to devise a way to enable the visually impaired to navigate this state-of-the-art system.
Visually impaired users need a simple and relevant solution that helps them plan their trip, with features designed specifically with their needs in mind.
We collaborated with Perth Transport Authority and our sister company Adapptor to develop a mobile application that utilises native accessibility features to help with thousands of daily journeys.
The Public Transport Authority (PTA) approached us with a unique problem. Similar to an airport, its new $217m Perth Busport features a state of the art Dynamic Stand Management System that allocates buses to different stands every minute. Passengers take a seat and large departure screens display the stand and time their bus is leaving two to five minutes before its arrival or departure. A first of its kind in Australia, this new system delivers a 50 per cent increase in the number of buses that go through the station each day.
But what if you were vision impaired?
This great technology is lost on those who can’t see the changing stands and screens, which is precisely the challenge the Public Transport Authority approached us to help them crack.
How do we make it easy for passengers with visual impairment to know which bus stand to go to, within a two to five minute window?
We needed to find the answer for this, and quickly. A working, tested solution needed to be developed within two months for the busport’s imminent opening. We started by analysing the problem and investigating how similar ones had been solved.
Understanding and empathy
To make the new Perth Busport accessible to all, we considered the challenges people with other disabilities might have when travelling and how these were overcome. Once we’d thoroughly investigated the existing methods, we began forming a proposed solution.
Then, we spoke with the people who would use it. We needed to understand their travelling experience from start to finish, the problems they face and whether they felt our ideas would bring relief. They told us about their transit challenges and how the various solutions available to them helped and where they fell short. We showed them basic sketch prototypes and they gave us their candid feedback.
From this we discovered three key insights:
- This specific group of people expertly navigate the public transport system with thorough planning.
- It is critical they are notified about the service they are interested in catching.
- Too much information causes confusion.
Armed with these insights, research and user testing, we had a clear understanding of what we needed to do. Vision impaired passengers needed simple, direct information that could be with them at all times and give them live updates as the bus stands changed.
Our insights became the three key design principles for the project, principles we measured every decision against. Our solution had to:
- Help passengers plan their trip.
- Provide relevant and timely information.
- Deliver only the most relevant information; detail is counter-productive.
Working with the PTA marketing and technical teams, we considered our insights and principles alongside their processes and resources and determined that a mobile app was the best method of delivery.
The native accessibility functionalities of Android and iOS were the perfect fit; married with location awareness technology, it enabled us to deliver timely, relevant information right when passengers would need it. And it would always be with them, in their pocket or bag.
Using our design principles and insights, we worked with Adapptor to develop an app using the native accessibility features of the Android and iOS platforms, which allowed it to be used by anyone. The vision impaired can choose to switch on the features they need, such as specific gestures, or voiceover to have the device read bus departure details in real time.
The app also checks for the device’s location when it is launched. If it detects it’s in a specifically geofenced area around the Perth Busport, it will automatically monitor and alert a person of a favourite bus stand allocation. That way a person is notified as soon as a stand is allocated so they know where to depart from in the next two to five minutes.
We developed a functional, working prototype which was tested and refined with vision impaired passengers at the busport before its opening. Their feedback informed and improved the app for market, which was ready three weeks ahead of the Perth Busport launch.
The Transperth Assist app launched in time for the Perth Busport opening so people of all abilities were able to use the bus services from day one.
Since then, the app has been downloaded over 30,000 times and has assisted travellers in making half a million journeys.
Interested in working with us?
Whether you have a clearly defined product brief or you're not sure wherein the problem lies, drop us a line for a no-pressure chat about where you are at and how we might help.