It's not always easy to find your way around a station, especially if it's a large one and you don't go there often. For visually impaired people, the story is even more complicated: the tactile floors are not always laid out in the most optimal way, are sometimes full of obstacles or, even worse, they're not always installed in our stations. These visually impaired travelers cannot navigate easily in the station, which limits their freedom and independence. They often waste a lot of time asking for directions.

In order to improve their experience, the Innovation Lab sought, and found, the solution. Thanks to Navilens - an application that uses Enhanced QR-codes - visually impaired travellers can now navigate the station without the help of an external person. These codes can be scanned from more than ten meters away, in a few microseconds and from several angles (you don't have to be facing the code for the scanning to work).

A very practical solution!

Thanks to Navilens' QR codes, visually impaired people get all the information they need about the layout of spaces (where the platforms are, the ticket offices, the toilets, etc.), the distance between them ("the toilets are 15m on the left") and real-time information about the trains. All this information is transmitted orally by the application. For example, a visually impaired person on a platform can scan the platform QR code and the app will tell them which train is coming next. In addition, the tool is translated into several different languages, which also allows tourists - visually impaired or not - to benefit from it.

Still being tested

At the moment, this technology is still being tested in our Brussels South station. In a first phase, we tested it with a small group of visually impaired people. We placed the Navilens code stickers at different angles to find out what was most suitable. Thanks to testing with our customers, we realised that the best combination was the QR codes on the floor combined with tactile floors.

What's next ?

Our next objective is to test this technology with a larger group in another station, using a combination of tactile floors and Navilens stickers. The lessons we learned from our first POC is that Navilens does not work when used alone. To guarantee maximum assistance to visually impaired travellers, it must be combined with the right infrastructure.
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