Smartwatch app which helps people with a learning disability travel more independently makes finals of Tech4Good Awards

Tech4Good Accessibility Award finalist waytoB, founded by two students, has integrated a smartphone and smartwatch platform to help people with a learning disability navigate their environment more independently. It's currently being trialled in Ireland and is a finalist in this year's Tech4Good Awards, which celebrate the amazing people who use tech to help make the world a better place.

waytoB has been created so that a carer, friend or family member can add safe routes via a smartphone platform for a person with a learning disability. That person adds the routes with their smartphone and is then able to track the location, heart rate and battery life of the person with the learning disability. They also get notified of key journey events (e.g getting lost, stopping for longer than expected, showing high levels of anxiety, etc.).

The person who has a learning disability follows icon-based instructions on their watch to better navigate their environment, with the watch vibrating when there's a new instruction.

Universal Design principles

WaytoB has been designed to be as flexible and inclusive as possible, providing independence to everyone: people with learning disabilities including autism, the elderly, and people with physical, cognitive, visual and hearing impairments. The project started in 2014 as part of an innovation module in user-centered design at Trinity College, Dublin. From the very beginning, students Talita Holzer Saad and Robbie Fryers developed their solution with the principles of Universal Design in mind, to ensure it is accessible to every type of user. 

In 2015, Public Health England estimated that there were more than one million people with a learning disability in England alone. Often people with a learning disability rely on others for transport and assistance to access their community, so WaytoB has the potential to open up independence.

A spokesperson for WaytoB said: “A study conducted by IDS-TILDA (at Trinity College) found that the majority of people with a learning disability over the age of 40 that it spoke to are dependent upon others for transportation and access options - and that the need for such assistance was the greatest barrier to successfully participating in social activities."

Standard navigation apps not safe for everyone

waytoB ’s research has also shown tthat popular smartphone apps for wayfinding are not suitable for those with learning disabilities - both from a cognitive perspective, and from a safety aspect, ie walking while trying to follow a smartphone screen presents risks from traffic, crime, and others.

Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion for AbilityNet adds: “waytoB is a really innovative take on the satnav, that all-important guide most of us use every day. By combining smartphone and smartwatch features this is navigation with a twist – specifically designed to provide that extra help needed by users with a learning difficulty or disability.”

  • You can vote for waytoB in the AbilityNet Tech4Good People's Award here - which closes on 9 July.
  • Winners of the 8th AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards will be announced on 17 July in London.