How a mobile application helps a student with vision problems to move around Moscow

Original author: Microsoft
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Alexander Epaneshnikov, a 19-year-old Russian student, is formally blind *. He recently decided that he wants to be more independent and rely less on his mother when traveling to school. The journey to school includes a 30-minute tram and metro ride to a high school in Moscow, and Alexander is confidently handling it with a cane and Moovit , an urban mobile application.

I am very pleased that Moovit is available and offers a large amount of information about Moscow public transport. I feel this adds more confidence and independence.
Says Alexander, who wants to study information technology at the university. The application helps him to meet friends in cafes and restaurants, as well as take a train to an unfamiliar city near Moscow to visit his girlfriend's family.

Launched seven years ago in Israel, the Moovit app has become the world's most popular travel planning and navigation app, with over 400 million users and available in 2,700 cities in 90 countries. The company is also a leader in inclusive technologies, with innovative work that helps people with many types of disabilities use buses, trains, subways, travel services and other forms of public transport.

In addition to creating and maintaining an application in 45 languages, MoovitCollaborates with Microsoft to provide multimodal moving data to developers using Azure Maps and a mobility as a service suite of solutions for cities, governments, and organizations. The partnership will create more inclusive, smart cities and more affordable transportation applications.

Our mission is to simplify mobility in cities and make it accessible, because mobility is indeed a fundamental human right. Effective mobility opens up many opportunities for employment, education and a better life, and we want to help all users make their travels as easy as possible.
Yovav Meydad, Director of Development and Marketing, Moovit.

For Moovit, their work means not only helping suburban residents to travel to cities for work and study, but also helping people with disabilities. Of the hundreds of daily emails sent to Moovit, letters from visually impaired are among the most important.

Sometimes it is very emotional. They say: “Thanks to Moovit, I have become more independent. Now I can leave home on my own. ”

The company began its work to ensure accessibility for all in 2015 when Meidad and other leading application developers met with a target group of people with low vision or low vision to see how they use their applications.

Honestly, I was shocked. I saw people trying to use our product, but they could not do it effectively or at all. This is because everything on the screen was not properly labeled.
Maidad also wrote two articles about this on Meduim.

Maidad took notes and promised big changes. He worked with the Moovit team and their blind developer to optimize the TalkBack mobile app on Android and VoiceOver on iOS. The team carefully examined each screen for accessibility, added useful shortcuts and improved the display of complex data - routes, data on the duration of the trip, start and end times, stops, entrances and exits. All this has been transformed into audio. User reviews from all over the world with low vision were taken into account.

A quarter later, we released an update to the main version that completely changed their experience.

Work on accessibility did not stop there. To facilitate public transportation for people who use a wheelchair, Moovit asked their Mooviters for 550,000 local participants to help map the mobility systems for the app, highlight the stations and stops accessible for wheelchairs in their cities. This allowed the company to add a feature that only shows routes with stops equipped with ramps and elevators.

For users with disabilities, Moovit has redesigned menus and buttons for easier one-handed use, especially on larger phones. For people who are color blind and use color-coded transport systems, such as the “green line,” Moovit adds a line name, not just a colored dot or symbol, which saves space on many cards.

The application also guarantees the absence of broken or overlaid text when the user needs to increase the font. Moovit in partnership with Be My Eyes, an application that organizes the communication of sighted volunteers with people with low or low vision. Be My Eyes is learning how to use the phone's vibration and flashlight for hearing loss users. And they constantly work with people with disabilities to improve the application.

For Microsoft, working with Moovit, which has developed accessible services such as screen readers and global wheelchair accessible driving directions, is part of the company's deep commitment to accessibility and inclusiveness. Developers using Azure Maps will soon have access to the Moovit Travel Planner and extensive transit data to create innovative, affordable tools.

What I like most about Moovit is that they give other companies the opportunity to develop them in their solutions. Our partnership can help people across the spectrum of disabilities use technology to move more freely and independently, which is a key indicator for improving the quality of life.
Megan Lawrence, Senior Accessibility Specialist at Microsoft.

* The term "legally blind" is known in some countries and means that a person has some vision problems. In reality, “legally blind” people are not always completely blind.

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