Transport for London (TfL) is launching a competition to create new ‘Accessibility Apps’. This marks the first of a series of initiatives to improve the variety of accessibility apps on offer. As part of the competition developers are being invited to apply with ideas for a new travel app which will make TfL realtime data more accessible to a far wider audience than mainstream Apple/Android apps. The winning entries will receive development support from TfL.

Making the transport network accessible to all is a key focus for both the Mayor and TfL and lots of work has taken place over recent years to deliver a range of accessibility improvements. Passengers have benefited from recent technological innovations including on-bus audio/visual announcements Countdown bus arrival information Wi-Fi in many Tube and Overground stations and an online resource showing stations with step free access and giving advice on avoiding stairs and the best ways to navigate the transport network.  New lifts have been installed on the Tube many more bus stops have been made accessible and wide aisle gates raised platform sections and manual boarding ramps have been introduced to make getting around easier. Many people used these to successfully plan and undertake their journeys during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Increasing public access to information is another priority area with TfL’s open data policy allowing developers to use its published dynamic data (known as ‘APIs’) free of charge. Most recently TfL launched its latest API with supported access to London’s live bus arrival information.

TfL is looking for applications from developers which will make it easier for disabled and older people to travel around the transport network. The proposed apps should look at:

> Physical ease of use (including making it easy to use the touchscreen and ‘dynamic’ elements)

> Clarity of information (to help people who are unfamiliar with technology or have difficulty understanding apps or travel information)

> Integration with other assistive technology features (for example using text to speech zoom facilities voice control)

> Compatibility with a wide range of devices

The judging panel will choose three applications that are considered to be innovative and offer value of use in one or more areas of accessibility to receive support to turn them into a live product. Winners will be announced in Autumn 2013 and the new accessibility apps will be released into the market at this time.

This competition is the first stage of an engagement plan with developers to produce new accessible journey planning tools. The next stage will see the Step Free Tube Guide data made available digitally for the first time in Summer 2013. TfL is aware that planning a step-free journey on the Tube can sometimes be confusing and this initiative will enable developers to produce more user-friendly versions of this information in order to make step-free journeys simpler for disabled and older people.

The OneVoice ICT Coalition ‘the voice for ICT accessibility and usability’ is promoting the competition with TfL. OneVoice has developed guidelines for accessibly applications and will specify the principles and governance behind this project.  Support and advice has also been given by a number of organisations including the RNIB Guide Dogs and Transport for All.

Leon Daniels Managing Director of Surface Transport at TfL said:

“TfL has a great track record of helping passengers with different needs get the right information. We have audio and visual announcements on all Tubes trains and buses. Now we want to go even further – using the most imaginative solutions and the latest technology to take the accessibility of London’s transport network to the next level. This new initiative should enable real time service arrivals and disruption information to reach a much wider group of people in a shorter time with partners tuned to passengers’ individual needs.”

Peter Abrahams OneVoice ICT said:

“This is a great challenge for app developers to show how existing data can be provided to disabled people so that it is easy to request and provide the most relevant information.  The developers may wish to consider what other data feeds or particular functions of the mobile device may enhance the user experience for people with specific disabilities. OneVoice look forward to seeing some innovative users of the technology.”

For more information about the competition details of how to enter and a full list of Terms and Conditions please see the Developer’s Area of the TfL website.

Entrants will have the opportunity to submit designs until 30 August 2013 and the winners will be announced at the end of September.

Link to original Article

Original Publication Date: Tue 12 Mar 2013