Congressman Castro Announces Nearly $900,000 to Help San Antonians with Disabilities Ride VIA Busses
Community Project to Transform Riding Experience for Visually Impaired Passengers Included in Annual House Appropriations Spending Bill
WASHINGTON — Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) announced $894,881 for VIA Metropolitan Transit’s Wayfinding Technology Project, which will help blind and low-vision riders find bus stops and learn of arrival times. Congressman Castro submitted this project on behalf of VIA to the House Appropriations Committee for federal funding and is now included in the House Appropriations Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies funding bill.
“As our city continues to grow, public transit is becoming more essential by the day,” said Congressman Castro. “San Antonians with disabilities deserve equal access to public transit. I designated this community project for federal funding to help people who are visually impaired successfully navigate the VIA bus system. I’m pleased that this VIA funding has been included in the annual spending bill and encouraged it will pass the House later this week. I’ll continue working to ensure that we improve technology in our transit systems, making it inclusive for all San Antonians.”
“Leveraging transit technology to deliver a modern, accessible and reliable transit system for the entire community is a critical goal for VIA,” said Jeff Arndt, VIA President/CEO. “With the support of Congressman Castro, VIA looks forward to expanding this wayfinding project providing people of all abilities and languages equal and convenient access to our services. We look forward to the successful adoption of the FY 2022 federal budget and deploying this new tool systemwide as quickly as possible.”
VIA’s Wayfinding Technology Project allows blind and low-vision bus riders to use their smartphones to find bus stops and learn of arrival times by using an algorithm to translate visual signage into audio. All VIA customers would also benefit by being able to use their smartphone to find out about bus arrival times.
The integrated app will use a QR code-style technology to assist passengers with navigating the VIA system. Yet, unlike traditional QR code systems, this technology allows for the codes to be scanned and read at various angles and distances. Along with assistance for visually impaired riders, the app also provides the capability of reading encoded information in 33 different languages.
Research has found that the current visually impaired passenger no longer relies on braille signage, but instead uses a cell phone to access needed information. This envisioned technology will utilize codes that can be placed on signage at bus stops and transit centers, which will communicate to an app on the patron’s cell phone. Therefore, initiating a verbal announcement of information, such as distance and direction to bus stops and bus arrivals in real-time.
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