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Accessible Technology

A rider uses an app that provides audio-equivalency for digital signs as part of a technology we’re developing for blind and low-vision riders
A rider tests an app that provides audio-equivalency for digital signs as part of a technology we’re exploring for blind and low-vision riders

As riders with disabilities use the T to go about their daily lives, we’re exploring ways of harnessing technology to give them a better, more accessible journey. New tools for communication and mobility are being developed every day.

Modeling Innovation

In 2017, the MBTA Department of System-Wide Accessibility (SWA) carried out a massive data collection effort, analyzing more than 7,500 MBTA bus stops to identify barriers to access. This project helped us prioritize bus stops for renovation, inspiring a collaboration between SWA and the MBTA’s Customer Technology Department that unexpectedly led to Boston becoming one of the first cities included in Google Maps’ new wheelchair-accessible-trip-planning feature.

SWA and Customer Technology continue to work together in pursuit of projects that use technology to improve accessibility on the T.

Identifying Problems and Solutions

A CTD employee walks with a rider during a user research study for blind and low vision riders
A Customer Technology employee walks with a rider during a user research study for blind and low-vision riders

The first step to making improvements is to identify what problems exist. For this, we tap into our greatest resource: our riders. Whether it’s listening to comments at a public meeting, holding focus groups, or doing ride-alongs on a daily commute, our goal is to first understand the problems faced by riders with disabilities before finding accessible solutions.
 
Here are some of the problems you’ve helped us identify—and how we’re working on solving them. 

What We’re Working On Now

Several accessible technology projects are currently underway at the MBTA, with pilot programs in active development.

What We’re Exploring

Some projects are still in the “brainstorming” phase. This includes actively researching existing technology to study how it might benefit our riders.

What We've Explored in the Past

A subway rider participates in a pilot for Aira, an assistive technology for blind and low-vision riders
A subway rider participates in a pilot for Aira, an assistive technology for blind and low-vision riders

We’re always learning from our past efforts, whether it’s deploying a pilot or collaborating with other organizations. Some of our recent research efforts include:

  • 13 interviews with blind and low-vision riders
  • 1 interview with an Orientation and Mobility (O&M) specialist
  • 4 ride alongs with blind and low vision riders
  • 5 app testing sessions
  • Formed a focus group with 15+ blind and low-vision riders
  • Collected informal feedback and input from dozens of riders

These are some of the questions—and answers—we’ve uncovered in our work that have helped us shape accessible technology projects we’re working on today.

Help Us Innovate at the T

A Blue Line train passes through Aquarium station

Have an idea that can help us solve an accessibility problem on the T?

Submit an innovation proposal

Related Projects

The building facade and entrances of newly renovated Wollaston Station, with the platform to the right, viewed from the parking lot.

Systemwide Accessibility Improvements

From minor projects to major construction, we are making changes across the entire system to help improve accessibility on the T.

A close up of an E Ink sign at the Broadway bus stop in Everett

Solar-Powered E Ink Signs

We've deployed E Ink signs featuring real-time arrival predictions and service alerts at bus stops and Green Line stations throughout Greater Boston.

Help Us Innovate at the T

A Blue Line train passes through Aquarium station

Have an idea that can help us solve an accessibility problem on the T?

Submit an innovation proposal

Related Projects

The building facade and entrances of newly renovated Wollaston Station, with the platform to the right, viewed from the parking lot.

Systemwide Accessibility Improvements

From minor projects to major construction, we are making changes across the entire system to help improve accessibility on the T.

A close up of an E Ink sign at the Broadway bus stop in Everett

Solar-Powered E Ink Signs

We've deployed E Ink signs featuring real-time arrival predictions and service alerts at bus stops and Green Line stations throughout Greater Boston.