TransLink testing new accessibility tool to help customers with sight loss better navigate transit system independently

Jan. 10, 2023
Launching in late February, the NaviLens app provides audio instructions that guide customers to bus stops and exact points of pick-up.

TransLink is testing an accessibility tool – the first of its kind in Canada – that can help customers with sight loss better navigate the transit system independently.

Starting in late February, customers can download the NaviLens app through the Apple Store or Google Play to scan specialized coded decals, resembling QR codes, at three transit locations. Once the decals are scanned, the app provides audio instructions that guide customers to bus stops and exact points of pick-up. The app can also identify nearby amenities, such as elevators, and provide real-time information alerts.

The audio wayfinding tool allows customers with sight loss to easily obtain information from the codes:

  • Codes can be scanned from up to 14 meters (46 feet) away
  • No focus is required to scan codes
  • Codes can be scanned in all light conditions
  • The app can be used while the customer is moving

“By bringing this advanced wayfinding technology to Canada for the first time, we’re aiming to create a more inclusive experience and empower our riders to navigate the transit system with ease and safety,” says TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn. “These types of innovative projects demonstrate our commitment to improving accessibility for all customers throughout the region.”

The NaviLens system is in use around the world – in cities such as New York City, Liverpool and Madrid – to help people with sight loss find their way in public spaces, including transit systems, rail stations and shopping centers.

Sixteen NaviLens codes have been installed at three TransLink locations:

  • 10 bus bays at New Westminster SkyTrain Station
  • Four bus stops near the CNIB office in New Westminster
  • Two bus stops near the VCC campus on East Broadway in Vancouver

“Implementing this test technology shows TransLink is working to ensure its customers with sight loss can travel independently and confidently,” says Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers President Rob Sleath. “This project aims to enhance the abilities of those with sight loss by helping them travel throughout the TransLink system.”

In 2021, TransLink began installing braille signage at every bus stop – roughly 8,400 – throughout Metro Vancouver. In addition, tactile walking surface indicators are being installed at every bus stop on TransLink-owned and leased property.

The Accessible Navigation Project will run for six months and be evaluated for future expansion throughout the region.