Navigating the streets of Tokyo is no easy task, regardless of ability.  However, having a disability adds an extra layer of difficulty as the routes offered by most navigation apps don’t take accessibility into consideration, and will often lead users to the steps of an overhead pedestrian crossing or an inaccessible subway entrance.  Hopefully, a new app will smooth out the bumps.

Hitachi, Ltd. and Navitime Japan Co. were commissioned by the Japanese government to create an app that would help users with disabilities smoothly and safely access Tokyo.  After 4 years of development, the app – Personal Navigation –  is entering a beta testing phase to get it ready for a 2020 release.

Currently, the app only covers areas around Toyosu and Ariake which are where many of the Olympic and Paralympic events will be held.  However, the companies plan to expand to the city center next.

We tried installing the beta and the app operates like most other navigation applications where a user chooses a starting point and a destination.  The main feature is the ability to then choose a special need from a list including: manual wheelchair, electric wheelchair, stroller, visual impairment (complete or partial blindness), and an option for the elderly.

The app will then select an optimal route based on this need.  For example, a wheelchair user will be shown a route with curb-cuts and no steps, but a user with visual impairment will be given a route that includes road crossings wit auditory signals.  The application will also include voice navigation.

At the moment, only a Japanese is version is available but a multi-lingual version will likely come later.

This application will be a welcome addition to other Japanese accessibility apps like BMaps and WheeLog!.  After looking up information on either of those applications, Personal Navigator can help users get there smoothly.

News Source: The Japan News

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