BENGALURU: City bus service can now be made more disabled-friendly, especially to the blind and deaf, thanks to a project that aims to make bus stops more accessible to these individuals.
A team of five will be testing the pilot project of theirs in mid-November. The personal experience of Muthuraj, a solution expert who has been previously written about by City Express, compelled him to come out with a generic solution for all the disabled.
Not long ago, his wife, who is visually impaired, was mowed down by a cow in Madiwala bus stop. Given the fact that most bus stops turn into a cowshed during rainy seasons, his wife accidentally touched a cow’s nose that prompted the cow to push her. Muthuraj told his wife never to go there but that could not be the long-term solution.
In June, Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK), a city-community that aims to solve humanitarian issues by bringing together a team of tech experts and hackers held its hackathon, themed disability and pollution, where Muthuraj proposed this problem statement.
The two-day workshop required them to come up with solutions.A group of six members were formed including four engineering students from M S Ramaiah Institute of Technology, National Institute of Engineering Mysore and IIT Kharagpur.
There were other six problem statements competing with the accessible bus stop projects, such as accessible public toilet and motorised wheelchair, but the bus stop project was the highlight of the event and was awarded a seed fund of `30,000 by Twitter.
The team was given a six-month-time to develop its first pilot project. Four months down, they will carry out its first experiment at a bus stop on Airport Road.
A bluetooth beacon hardware will be installed in the bus stop. Once the beacon syncs with the accessible bus stop app, the cellphone of the user will start vibrating along with the audio announcing the person is within 100 metre radius of the bus stop and the name of the bus stop will also be identified. Efforts are being made for the app to pick beacon signal that will be installed in the buses to announce the bus number and the route as well. The team has considered using Google Maps and other GPS facilities to identify the location of the bus.
Google Map is accurate only to 100 meters so the chances of a visually impaired person reaching a wrong place because of Google Map telling them they have reached the place even before reaching is high.
“The idea is to make the visually impaired independent but we don’t want to narrow it down to one disability. There are those who might not be able to hear and see, so the solution is also based on vibrations. Its vibration feature will make it a more universal app,” says Yashaswi Bharadwaj, one of the engineers working on the project.
A static bus stop with beacons and a dynamic person with the app will be a good way to make commuting “struggle-free” for the disabled, says Muthuraj, who is piloting this project and is the head of the accessibility initiative of RHoK.
The first phase will be experimented with around 15 visually impaired. “If the first pilot project deems to be successful then we plan to incorporate this on a massive scale. We are also thinking of installing these beacons on BMTC buses but first we need to evaluate and analyse,” says Muthuraj.
“Even though there are few buses that are wheelchair-friendly, work needs to be done to make it disabled-friendly. We are open to any ideas that will make the buses more disabled-friendly and will implement it on a large scale,” says Ekroop Caur, Managing Director of BMTC.
However, BMTC has not been approached by RHoK as of yet. “Instead of us approaching the authorities, it is better if the disabled themselves approach them for the project since that will be more impactful,” says Yashaswi.