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Accessible Technology

A rider who is visually impaired approaches an MBTA bus stop with a guide dog. The rider aims a mobile phone camera at a bus parked at the bus stop while using the Aira visual interpretation phone app. A trained agent can then describe the rider's surroundings. 
A rider who's visually impaired uses the Aira phone app at an MBTA bus stop (April 2019)

In 2019, the MBTA Department of System-Wide Accessibility (SWA) and the Customer Technology Department (CTD) partnered to create a program focused on finding and developing technology to improve our system’s accessibility. We explore ways to harness technology so that riders with disabilities have better, more accessible journeys on the T. CTD teams are always working on new tools that enhance communication and improve mobility. 

We Want to Hear from You

We invite you to give us your suggestions, questions, or complaints about accessible technology. Please contact MBTA Customer Support, let us know if your comments are related to accessibility, and provide as many details as possible so we can give the most helpful response.

Phone

Voice: 617-222-3200

TTY: 617-222-5146

Identifying Problems and Solutions

An elevator-dependent rider holding a white cane talks to a researcher with a clipboard and another who is holding up an "ELEVATOR CLOSED" sign next to an elevator at Davis Station.
Two CTD researchers talk with a rider in an MBTA station about how to improve elevator signage accessibility (August 2019)

Our first step is to identify existing problems by turning to our greatest resource—our riders. When we listen to comments at public meetings, hold focus groups, or go with riders on ride-alongs during their daily commutes, our first goal is to understand the problems faced by riders with disabilities before we explore accessible solutions.

Here are some of the problems you’ve helped us identify, and a few of the solutions we’ve developed.

Current projects

Two side-by-side digital screens hang on a wall in Tufts Medical Center station. One screen shows  an Orange Line map, the other shows an alert about shuttles replacing Orange Line service towards Oak Grove, and a list of elevator closures. Next to the screens is a button with a label saying “Press for Audio,” which is also written in braille on the label.
A mock-up showing how digital information screens at Tufts Medical Center station provide maps and service alerts about elevator closures—a braille-labeled button plays an audio description of what’s being displayed (February 2022)

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

Exploratory projects

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

Past explorations and accomplishments

We’re always learning from our efforts, whether we're deploying a pilot or collaborating with other organizations. Below are some of our recent research efforts:

  • Analyzed barriers to access at bus stops—this led Google Maps to make Boston one of the first cities included in their new wheelchair-accessible trip-planning feature
  • Interviewed an orientation and mobility (O&M) specialist
  • Conducted 13 interviews and went on four ride-alongs with riders who are blind or have low-vision
  • Interviewed six riders who depend on elevators
  • Formed a focus group with over 15 riders who are blind or have low vision
  • Held five app-testing sessions
  • Collected informal feedback and input from dozens of riders

Below are a couple of the questions and answers we’ve uncovered in our work that helped us shape the accessible technology projects we’re working on today.

Related Projects

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Related Projects

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We Want to Hear from You

We invite you to give us your suggestions, questions, or complaints about accessible technology. Please contact MBTA Customer Support, let us know if your comments are related to accessibility, and provide as many details as possible so we can give the most helpful response.

Phone

Voice: 617-222-3200

TTY: 617-222-5146

Related Projects

View all projects

Related Projects

View all projects