GTR expands innovative app to enhance accessibility for visually impaired passengers

Posted: 28 March 2024 | | No comments yet

GTR collaborates with Sight Loss Councils to extend the ground-breaking Aira app, providing essential support for blind and partially sighted passengers navigating railway stations.

GTR expands innovative app to enhance accessibility for visually impaired passengers

Credit: Govia Thameslink Railway

In a bid to enhance accessibility for blind and partially sighted passengers, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has announced the expansion of a ground-breaking guiding app, Aira, to an additional eight stations across the region. Collaborating closely with Sight Loss Councils, this move aims to empower visually impaired individuals with independent travel options.

Originally introduced and trialled at four stations in June 2023, including Brighton, East Croydon, Blackfriars and Stevenage, the Aira app has garnered positive feedback. Now, GTR is extending the free use of this app to include stations such as Finsbury Park, Brent Cross West, Luton Airport Parkway, Bedford, Sutton, Haywards Heath, Eastbourne and Chichester.

Aira operates by allowing blind and partially sighted users to make a video call to a trained advisor who assists them by utilising the smartphone’s camera to navigate the station environment while providing guidance via speakerphone. This innovation promises to revolutionise the way visually impaired individuals navigate public spaces, ensuring greater autonomy and safety.

“We want everyone to be able to use our services, regardless of their disability or need for assistance,” said Carl Martin, GTR’s Accessibility Lead. “All our staff are trained to assist our customers, whatever their needs. We hope this app can improve the support we already offer blind and partially sighted customers to put them in control of their journeys.”

Putting the customer at the heart of everything we do

David Smith, Sight Loss Council Engagement Manager for Thomas Pocklington Trust, said: “It is essential that everyone can travel independently and safely, and live the lives they want to lead. Sight Loss Councils are pleased to be working with Govia to expand this app, alongside a wider package of support designed to make transport accessible for blind and partially sighted people.”

Testimonials from users such as Sight Loss Council Volunteer Paul Goddard and blind passenger Pierre Shlimon underscore the app’s effectiveness and its role in fostering a sense of confidence and independence among users.

To encourage further feedback and refinement, GTR is urging visually impaired customers to participate in a Customer Feedback Survey available on the assisted travel sections of Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern’s websites.