Service Design in Public Transport for the Visually Impaired

After Service Redesign for Lau Pa Sat, we moved on to Project 4. Our fourth design challenge for General Assembly Singapore’s User Experience Immersive Course is a two-week group project. This time, we got to choose a free topic — a problem that is currently not addressed by an organisation or a company. I was assigned to work with Ivan and Bryant.

We chose Land Transport Authority (LTA). According to its website, LTA is responsible for planning, operating, and maintaining Singapore’s land transport infrastructure and systems.

This is our problem statement:

“LTA has made the transport system easy to navigate for most people. However, it remains a challenge for people who are visually impaired. How can we improve the accessibility of transport facilities to make up for their visual handicap so that they will feel more empowered to travel by themselves?”

We were motivated to come up with solutions that can be incorporated into the current transport system and have positive impacts to the society.

Recruiting Users

None of us know anyone who is visually impaired. Thus, we decided to email these organisations below that could help us get in touch with our users:

  • Singapore Association for the Visually Handicapped (SAVH)
  • Guide Dogs Association of the Blind (GDAB)
  • The Blind Foundation
  • Blind Massage Service
  • Lighthouse School

Some organisations are no longer operating. We were either rejected or received no responses from them. We were undeterred and thus decided to visit some places directly.

We went to Guide Dogs Association of the Blind (GDAB). But their office was closed.

Interviews & Ethnography Study

Determined not to go home empty-handed, we went to Singapore Association for the Visually Handicapped (SAVH). However, we were told that SAVH is not open for walk-in visitors. We decided to execute Plan B — We waited outside the association and to approach people for interviews.

This plan went well. We talked to three visually impaired persons. These are our key takeaways:

  • They need help to flag for the bus and to alight at their bus stops.
Our design considerations: 
1) Improve audio feedbacks at bus and bus stops
2) Introduce bus flagging system that they can operate by themselves
  • MRT stations with multiple transit lines are confusing to navigate.
Our design considerations:
1) Provide indoor navigation audio guide
  • They use two different applications to ease their commuting experience. For example, most of them use GoogleMap to plan their trip at home. When they are commuting, they switch to a phone app such as BlindSquare or MyTransport to check timely or location specific information (e.g. bus arrival time).
Our design considerations:
1) Provide an app that can support both planning and commuting.

Besides interviews, we also observed how the visually impaired persons walked to and from SAVH. These are our key findings:

  • They rely on audio feedbacks.
Our design considerations:
We need to include audio instructions and feedbacks as part of our design.
  • They rely on their sense of touch. For example, one person ensures that he remains on path by walking near road markings that mark out the boundaries of the path.
Our design considerations:
Our solutions should not limit to phone app. We took into account of the possibility in having physical kiosks or wearable that they can touch and feel.

After a few days into the project, we received good news from friends that we could interview people they know who are suffered from low vision.

More findings from these interviewees:

  • Changes to their usual routes make them uncomfortable. For example, a roadblock or new stairs installed, differing from the route they remembered, might become hazardous to them.
Our design considerations:
- Allow users to report hazards
  • If a system is too complicated to use, they would rather ask people around them than using the system.
Our design considerations: 
To keep our kiosk or app easy to use, requiring as little inputs from the users as possible.

Technology Research & Comparative Analysis

From user interviews and ethnography study, we had many ideas in mind. However, we were not sure whether these ideas were feasible. We decided to make a trip down to Enabling Village, Singapore’s first community space that focuses on training and finding employment for persons with disabilities.

To create awareness, Enabling Village also showcases assistive tools for people with different disabilities.

We met Colin who worked at Enabling Village. He introduced us to different type of assistive tools for the visually impaired such as:

· Braille Notetaker: Support braille & speech output

Our design considerations:
- To have braille wordings for kiosk and public printouts.
  • Braille Embosser: For printing 3D tactile graphics
The amount of details that the 3d printer can support. This image is from
Our design considerations:
- To have 3D floorplan for MRT station

· Magnifier scanner for paper that integrated with speech readout capability

Our design considerations:
To have large fonts and audio feedbacks for our app and kiosk.

It is truly an eye-opening experience for me as I had never seen any assistive tools before.

We also researched online for existing technologies to get more inspirations.

Competitive Analysis

We analysed the current MyTransport app and realised that they provide only a single mode journey planning either by bus, train or taxi. Walking routes are also not part of the journey. We felt that this information is important for our users.

Some of our interviewees told us that they are using BlindSquare, a popular phone app used by the visually impaired. However, we only have accessed to the free demo version that is used in New York. Nevertheless, we tried out the app. These are some of the screenshots.

We also watched YouTube videos to find out how people use BlindSquare.

Affinity Mapping

From user interviews, we moved on to Affinity Mapping.

These are some of our key essences:

  • Fiercely Independent
“I will only ask for assistance if I’m unfamiliar with the place.”
  • Elephant Memory
“When I travel on a new path, I will need to do it 2–3 times to learn and remember the route”
  • Tech Savvy
“I typically use the features that is built-in into the smart phone.”
  • Hazard Prone
“I have a narrow field of vision, and it might cause me to have accidents.”


From the Affinity Mapping, we derived our persona.

Journey Map

Using the scenario of Mike being invited to a housewarming party and wanting to get there independently, we created this Journey Map that records Mike’s emotions throughout his entire commute experience.

More ideas are generated to address various touch points and pain points.

Feature Prioritization

At this stage, we have a massive feature list that we constantly updated throughout our design process. We proceeded with feature prioritisation. Axis X is based on the consultation feedbacks from the developers regarding the amount of effort required to implement these features. Axis Y is based on the importance of having these features based on user research.

Design Iterations

Feature 1: Bus Flagging System

Bus Flagging system can be accessed either by kiosk or phone app. It allows the visually impaired to flag buses by themselves. As shown in the image, the new bus stop setup consists of:

  • EZLink Reader: For user to scan their disabilities concession card to activate bus number kiosk
  • Bus number kiosk: For users to touch and feel tactile bus number buttons to select buses.
  • Green Flashing Light: To notify drivers that there is a visually impaired person at the bus stop.
  • LED Screen: To notify drivers of the bus number to stop.
Kiosk sketches and final prototype

On the left is initial touchscreen system. Through testing, we realised that it was tough for users to scroll through pages when they couldn’t see clearly. We eventually simplified to having analog tactile buttons. This way, people who are not tech savvy can make use of the kiosk as well.

Images below are the screens for the app version:

Feature 2: Multi modal Journey Planner
“When I travel to a new place, I will google the bus stop and what bus to take”.

Journey Planner is meant for users to plan their routes. When the visually impaired are commuting, our app will keep them update with indoor navigation guides and hazard alerts.

Feature 3: Indoor Navigation
“It’s hard to know the direction of the MRT trains unless I’ve been there before”.

For our initial design, there are some screens to show navigation steps. We decided that the visually impaired are unlikely to refer on these screens while commuting. So we changed the design to provide audio guides that are triggered by iBeacon devices installed in the MRT station.

Feature 4: Hazard Report
“I have fallen down the stairs before at the MRT stations”.

Hazard Report allows users to record audio reports and send to LTA via our app. LTA will verify these reports and update our app system. The app will detect users’ location via GPS and notify users of hazards nearby.

Usability Testing

We were unable to get any visually impaired person to test our prototype. All our testers were told to put on glasses we created to simulate low vision.

Final Mockup

Watch this video for our final mockup:

Future Enhancements

If we were to continue this project, we would like to include following features:

  • Braille wordings for MRT map
  • 3D Tactile floor plan
  • Public Awareness Banner
  • Traffic Light Vibration

Special Thanks

I would like to thank my teammate Ivan Simwx and Bryant Tang for making this project a success. I truly enjoy every discussion we had. I am glad that we were able to express our opinions freely and were open to feedbacks.

Thank you for reading!

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