New technology would improve ways the blind navigate public transportation

The BlindWays app, developed by Watertown's Perkins School for the Blind, helps users more precisely find their bus stops

people wait for bus at bus stop

Perkins School for the Blind's app is designed to help the blind find bus stops.

July 3, 2018

For Bruce Howell public transportation is vitally important.

Living with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), an inherited disease of the retina, the 63-year-old said, “I’ve been losing vision all my life,” and became legally blind at age 37.

He depends on the bus to take him from his home in Needham to his job at Newton’s Carroll Center for the Blind on Centre Street. He was excited to learn about new technology from the MBTA that may make navigating local transportation routes and bus stops easier in the future.

“Independence is such an important concept for [people who are visually impaired],” Howell said. “The less we have to rely on somebody else to figure things out for us, the better it is for our self confidence. Since we can’t drive, that (public transportation) becomes a really critical option for us.”

Howell has already been using the BlindWays app, developed by Watertown’s Perkins School for the Blind, for about a year. The app helps users more precisely find their bus stops.

“Its purpose very appropriately addressed some of the biggest challenges for traveling when you’re blind, ... finding a bus stop,” said Howell, who noted stops are not uniform and are frequently tricky to locate.

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