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National Lottery money to fund digital innovation to help millions of vision impaired people

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Area:
UK-wide
Release date:
30 11 2017

Wayfindr, a not for profit partnership between the charity Royal Society for Blind Children (RSBC) and digital product company ustwo, has today received £300,000 from the Big Lottery Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK. The Fund will be investing in an innovation to help blind people navigate indoor environments independently using audio navigation.

Formed in 2015, Wayfindr has developed an Open Standard for indoor audio navigation. This is a set of guidelines to help building owners, transport companies and navigation software developers make their environments and products easier for people who are vision impaired to use. This means that mobile apps for indoor navigation will be accessible for vision impaired people from the beginning. Using these apps, vision impaired users will receive audio instructions through their headphones. These instructions are triggered just ahead of obstacles or turning points, so a user can travel safely and independently.

Wayfindr will be using National Lottery funding to help transform and further develop the Open Standard by trialling it in a range of contexts (transport, shopping centres, and hospitals) across the UK, with the aim of supporting two million blind people to navigate indoor environments independently. Initial testing at London’s Euston and Pimlico stations has proven the viability of audio navigation for people who are vision impaired and clearly shown a desire for this technology to be widely available.

Research shows that almost half of vision impaired people feel ‘moderately’ or ‘completely’ cut off from people and things around them[i], therefore the Standard will help reduce social isolation in those who struggle to get out and about on their own.

Wayfindr was an idea that came directly from a group of young vision impaired people at the Royal Society for Blind Children’s Youth Forum in 2014.

Dawn Austwick, Chief Executive of Big Lottery Fund, said: “Wayfindr is a brilliant concept that could potentially have a huge impact on the lives of two million vision impaired people. The implementation of this digital tool will enable individuals to better engage with the people and places around them making them feel more connected to their community. We are delighted to award National Lottery funding to such an innovation.”

Florence Orban, Managing Director at Wayfindr, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players we are able to continue working towards our goal of empowering vision impaired people to travel independently wherever and whenever they want. By allowing us to continue developing and rolling out the Wayfindr Open Standard, this funding will help us raise awareness and adoption of indoor audio wayfinding across the UK.”

Digital Minister, Matt Hancock said: “This is a great example of the charity sector and tech world coming together to use cutting-edge technology to improve people's lives.

"Wayfindr shows digital tools can be a force for good and will help vision impaired people lead more independent lives.”

Big Lottery Fund is responsible for giving out 40 per cent of the money raised by National Lottery players for good causes. Last year it awarded almost £713 million and supported almost 14,000 projects across the UK for health, education, environment and charitable purposes.

Contact:

Kayleigh Sandwell: kayleigh.sandwell@biglotteryfund.org.uk
Press Office: 020 7211 1888
Out of hours media contact: 07867 500572
Florence Orban, Wayfindr: florence@wayfindr.net
Contact number: 07921 697 636

Notes to Editors:

Big Lottery Fund uses money raised by National Lottery players to help communities achieve their ambitions. From small, local projects to UK-wide initiatives, our funding brings people together to make a difference to their health, wellbeing and environment. Since June 2004 we have awarded £8.5 billion to projects that improve the lives of millions of people.

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ABOUT RSBC

No child in the UK should grow up to be poor or lonely just because they are blind.

The Royal Society for Blind Children believe in a better life for blind children. We are on a mission to make sure every single blind child has the self-belief and skills to fulfil the potential we know they’ve got.

For nearly two centuries RSBC has been supporting blind and partially sighted children, young people, and their families. We are an ambitious charity; by 2020 we want to have helped 11,000 blind and partially sighted children and young people in England and Wales.

From 1 January 2017, the Royal Society for Blind Children (RSBC) and Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB) joined together to create a leading charity in England & Wales dedicated to making sure that no child will grow up to be poor or lonely just because they are blind.

For more information, please visit www.rsbc.org.uk

About Wayfindr

Wayfindr is an award-winning social tech not-for-profit, with ambitions to help the global community of 285 million blind people navigate indoor environments independently.

Formed in 2015 and based in London, our mission is to empower vision impaired people to overcome isolation, through inclusive and accessible audio based navigation. We have developed the world's first internationally-approved standard for accessible audio navigation.

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Source: Royal National Institute of the Blind[I]

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