It is not always easy to find your way through a station, especially if it is large and unfamiliar. This situation is even more difficult for visually impaired persons: tactile guide paths are not always available and stations can sometimes be full of obstacles. Consequently, visually impaired people cannot find their way through stations easily, which limits their freedom and independence. They often waste a lot of time asking for directions. To improve their experience, Innovation Lab has worked with the Station Department to find a suitable solution. They quickly came up with Navilens, an application with coloured QR codes. These enable visually impaired persons to move through the station without any external help. These QR codes can be scanned in a few microseconds from over ten meters away and at different angles (the camera does not need to be directly opposite the code to scan it).

What have we tested?

First of all, the Navilens QR codes were tested in the Brussels-Midi station with a restricted group of visually impaired persons. To do so, stickers were placed in different locations (to analyze which location would be the best). These tests taught us that both QR codes on the ground and tactile guide paths were needed in order for the solution to be suitable for visually impaired persons.

Next, tests were conducted in partnership with STIB, TEC, and De Lijn in three stations (Bruges, Gembloux, and Bruxelles-Midi). The lessons drawn during the first phase - namely that the Navilens technology does not work if used alone - were taken into consideration and the configuration was adapted. The main conclusion was that Navilens QR codes have more added value when they are used within a good existing infrastructure.

The next steps?

BMC (Belgian Mobility Card) was strongly involved during the proof-of-concept. It is set to take over the navigation solutions to be provided to visually impaired persons in stations.

The added benefit for passengers?

The Navilens QR codes provide visually impaired persons (and even tourists) with all the information needed on the layout of the spaces (where the platforms are, as well as the ticket desks, toilets, etc.), and the distance between these (for example: “the toilets are located 15 m to your right”), along with real-time information on the trains. All this information is given verbally via the application. For example, a visually impaired person on a platform can scan the QR code present in this location and the application will tell them the next train to arrive there.

Moreover, the application is translated into several languages so tourists - whether visually impaired or not - can also use it.