First assignment of group n° 039
Resources used by the team
First description of our project
Blind people orientation on the Parisian subway
1. What Problem do you want to solve ?
Nowadays, according to the World Health Organization, more than 45 million people are blind in the world. In France, 1.7 million people have a visual impairment which represents 3 French out of 10, therefore more than 207 000 are blind or deeply visual impaired. Besides, according to the Federation for blind in France, the number of people with a visual impairment will increase in the next 25 years because in 750 000 births, 100 000 individuals will have this problem (http://www.aveuglesdefrance.org/social/la-cecite-en-france).
We also have to take into account that 3 people out of 4 claim to have another deficiency associated with the visual impairment. It means that on average 41% of blind people have an intellectual or mental disabilities where 17% of blind people have usually a memory disorders or a temporo-spatial disorientation.
We want blind people to have a better quality and social life, and mobility contributes a lot to it. However, 58% of visual impaired people have difficulties to go outside of their home which represent 4 blind people out of 10. The reasons are that the outside world can be destabilizing and that they are scared of the unforeseen obstacles such as being pushed around or unexpected big traffic in train station… (“Les personnes ayant un handicap visuel” - N°416 juillet 2005 - Direction de la recherche des études de l’évaluation et des statistiques).
Therefore, people with visual disabilities cannot be independent in their daily life. Obviously, the main problem is that they cannot see. That is why they feel disoriented faced to the society, they do not know where they are. They are not aware of the obstacles that surround them such as steps, street lights, etc. One main issue which not well known is that they face a permanent problem of orientation within the public transportation.
Over the last two decades the National Organization on Disability (NOD) has sponsored three successive Harris polls with people having disabilities, and respondents in each survey have reported that transportation issues are a crucial concern. In the last survey, undertaken in 2004, just under a third of those with disabilities reported that inadequate transportation was a problem for them; of those individuals, over half said it was a major problem. (National Organization on Disability-Harris Interactive, 2004)
Knowing that many underground lines can cross in a same station, it can be really hard to find the right direction when you do not know the area.
When on the same line, two trains come and go in two different directions, blind people need to ask their way around to get on the right train. This issue mostly comes from taking the RER to go to the suburbs/outskirt. Indeed, If we assume that he/she has firstly found the right platform, he/she then needs to ask someone whether or not that train will stop to the station desired.
Moreover, the complexity of the underground network in a city such as Paris requires a constant attention in orientation because of the different connections. In fact, the majority of directions are visual (signs, billboards, timetables of trains…) and that is another issue that requires blind people to count on other people.
For all of theses reasons, cecity people tend to be isolated because it is not easy for them to bother people and ask them for some help every time they need it, and that could discourage them from getting out of their place. Testimonials we gathered affirm that they claim for more autonomy and the fact of counting permanently on others may represent a significant embarrassment for them.
Edouard Ferrero, President of the “Confédération Française pour la Promotion Sociale des Aveugles et Amblyopes” (CFPSAA), regrets a stagnation in the accessibility policy. He accepted to sponsor our project of research which, according to him, corresponds to one of the main problems that blind people face everyday.
And for us, this is an important issue that deserves to be considered by innovation improvement.
2. Why does this problem exist?
Infrastructure are not adapted to fit their needs: all places in the world are not developed to welcome blind people. In fact, big cities such as Paris, are always crowded and they have to face many obstacles.
Some solutions exist such as braille; to understand others as well as getting education and being cultured or guide dogs to help them move from one place to another. The problem is that their needs are partially fulfilled.
Blind people cannot drive so they are fully dependant of public transportation to travel in Paris. They need infrastructures which fits their disability in order to help them in the subway. Usually, they orientate themselves in cities thanks to their smartphone, which guides them. In the Parisian subway, there isn’t network so their smartphone cannot help them anymore. Since the new law of the 11th of February 2005, the RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens) takes care of disabled people problems. In fact, there are sound signals in several languages to inform the passengers and warning bands are also placed in some stations.
These improvements aren’t sufficient, blind people still have difficulties to find their connection. Moreover, to reach the final destination they have to take lot of tunnels and stairs.
Even if they have a guide dog or a cane, they cannot find their way easily as they cannot know in which direction the train is going (the way they are supposed to follow) and where they should go in order to take their train (or if they are in connection they do not know where to wait the next train). Finally, to add on the fact that it is difficult for them to have information in the metro, some parisian regional train (RER) do not stop at every stops. How could they know if the train stops at the station they want to go ? Indeed, there is only visual signals to indicate at which stops the train is stopping…
3. What breakthrough are you commited to creating?
In order to solve this problem, we are committed to create a better and safer environment inside parisian subway for people with visual disabilities. A surrounding where it would be effortless for blind people to orientate themselves in subway corridors.
It would improve their daily life as they will be able to move easily from one train to another during their connections. Moreover, they would be able taking connections without wondering where they should go or asking people the right way. Indeed, after reading through a lot of blind people experience, we can point out that some of them do not want or do not like to ask their way to strangers. They feel the need to be independent and to go where they want to go alone, without the help of others.
Providing effective mobility options for those with visual disabilities requires attention to variety of interrelated policy areas (such as governments, blind associations…) and service delivery models (such as RATP or Transilien) : from how, when, and where solutions can be provided inside metro and RER stations. Addressing the transportation needs of such travelers requires active cooperation between transportation planners services (RATP, SNCF…) as well as governments in order to establish appropriate policies.
We won't give them back their sight but we are committed to create breakthrough thanks to an innovative and social solution. ‘You either have to be part of the solution, or you're going to be part of the problem.' -Eldridge Cleaver-
Potential experts already identified
Edouard Ferrero, President of the “Confédération Française pour la Promotion Sociale des Aveugles et Amblyopes” (CFPSAA). Likehood to convince him to join the final panel: 10/10.