New 'Harry app' will help blind people know when their bus is approaching

A new smartphone app which lets people with sight loss know when their bus, or bus stop, is approaching, will be brought to life following an accessible tech hack weekend in which AbilityNet staff were volunteers and judges.

The Barclays' 'Access for All' Maker Change event earlier this autum, was held at the 'Makerversity' lab in London's Somerset House. Over the weekend, 30 volunteers work on six different accessibility challenges to help disabled people in every day life.

The challenges were set by clients of the charities Whizz Kids, Leonard Cheshire and Shaw Trust and Barclays' disability employee network group. Harry App, worked on by a team including AbilityNet's manager of accessibility user testing - Cristina Cabezas - was chosen as the winner. 

The App was inspired by Leonard Cheshire client Angharad, know as Harry, who was born with a number of eye conditions, including nystagmus, ocular albinism, photophobia and sight loss. Angharad told the team that catching the bus is a daily battle because she can't identify the bus route number and didn't know when to get off.

Using existing technology, the team created a smartphone app to identify bus route details, and discreetly alert Harry when to get off the bus. A beacon in the driver’s cockpit will emit a signal for the user's phone, so that they can identify the correct bus. The app will now be brought to life by developers at University College London.

“It was fantastic to participate in the challenge; so many creative and brilliant minds put their ideas into action,” says Cristina (second from right in photo). “Being a 'maker' on the Harry App was a great opportunity. The best thing is seeing that our project is going to be developed by the UCL. The idea will help so many people.”

Cristina and her colleague Adi Latif, who is accessibility and usability consultant for AbilltyNet, worked alongside innovators from Barclays Eagle Labs and those from Infosys, as well as experts from FabLabs and Makerversity. Teams used the latest in 3D printing and laser cutting technology, concept design and created prototype gadgets and gizmos to overcome the challenges.

See more of what happened on the day, here.

You might also like to check out our piece on the navigation app for people with sight loss, Wayfindr

Or, see the article on Wearable tech that interprets sign language