The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) today unveiled a new standard for designing inclusive, audio-based indoor navigation systems – to better provide real-time wayfinding and location support for people who are blind or low vision. This CTA standard provides a universal set of guidelines for app developers and owners of indoor locations – such as railway stations, airports, convention centers and museums – to create an accessible environment for all.
“The CTA standard will help us create the same set of audio instructions for accessing a metro train or bus whether the individual is in Washington, DC or Los Angeles,” said David Shaffer, access policy officer, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and member of the committee that established the standard. "With public transportation so important to those who cannot drive, it is critical to ensure that rail and bus stations everywhere are fully accessible. This project is the next step in creating an equal experience for everyone, so that vision impaired customers can travel the system as easily as the customers with vision."
Since indoor locations are not mapped the way streets are, and GPS signals often do not penetrate well through thick walls or underground, visually impaired travelers typically must either memorize a space or travel with a companion. With the installation of wayfinding technologies such as Bluetooth beacons and Wi-Fi, audio-based mobile apps can help travelers with vision impairments navigate through unfamiliar locations independently and confidently. The CTA standard provides a consistent user experience even in new locations, and through this project, navigation apps will be able to include features like indoor positioning, low vision maps, virtual tours, pre-journey planning, route directions and step-by-step navigation.
“The dream of indoor navigation is for individuals with blindness or vision loss to navigate independently,” said Zachary Bastian, manager, public policy and strategic alliances, Verizon and co-chair of the committee. “The more that we can enable people with a variety of capacities and disabilities to go about their day without needing third-party support, the more we are allowing them to realize their full potential.”
Developed by CTA’s committee on intelligent mobility, the project included more than a dozen experts, ranging from manufacturers of assistive technology, mobile app developers, consumer advocacy organizations and public transportation officials. The standard covers a wide range of components – from principles of design to requirements for turn-by-turn instructions. The project also strongly urges the involvement of people who are blind or have vision loss in the design, development and validation process in a real environment.
“To ensure people can use the audio instructions to navigate to their destination or explore an area, the standard requires that apps offer different levels of detail – like defining the starting point of a route, a pathway or a decision point, and enabling users to locate the stairs or restroom,” said Dave Wilson, vice president, technology and standards, CTA. “When app developers and indoor locations across the country adopt the same principles when building their systems, it will exponentially improve the user experience and make people more independent.”
With more than 70 groups and 1,100 participants, the CTA Technology & Standards program exists to lead the industry conversation and ensure that new products hitting the market continue to work with existing devices and platforms.
The complete standard is available for free at CTA.tech/standards.