The US state of Connecticut is allowing blind and low vision commuters to use the Aira virtual mobility assistance service for free when using public transportation.
The service uses a smartphone’s camera to stream live video to an Aira agent who provides the subscriber with access to visual information about their surroundings. They use the live video to narrate and interpret what they see for the user. This can include how to use the ticket vending machine, navigate one of Connecticut’s public transportation hubs, or access connecting services.
The 18-month programme is part of a collaboration between the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDoT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) and the Connecticut Department of Aging and Disability Services. The Connecticut Transportation Institute at the University of Connecticut will administer the pilot.
The partners will evaluate Aira and its effectiveness in providing travel assistance when using public transportation in Connecticut. A report and evaluation of the service will be available at the end of the initiative.
CDoT commissioner Joseph Giulietti says: “Our mission is to give all our riders access to vital public transportation services. We’re happy to be connecting people with our state’s extensive transit system to improve their quality of life – getting people to work, schools, health care, and so much more.”
Amy Porter, Connecticut Department of Aging and Disability Services commissioner, says: “This innovative technology provides real-time access to information, maximising mobility, engagement, and independence for individuals who are blind or have low vision.”
Nyema Pinkney Cranford, a global continuous improvement manager for an unnamed aerospace company, has been using Aira since 2016.
“The agents are always patient, courteous, and knowledgeable,” Cranford says.
“We even celebrate our successes together when I complete something that would have otherwise been anxiety-filled or taxing. I trust the Aira agents because they really work to help me get things done. Grocery shopping, online purchases, Uber – name it. Aira is always there as my personal helper to see how to live, not watch life pass me by.”