For Cassie Hames, the seemingly straightforward task of waiting at a bus stop can be one of the most challenging parts of her daily routine.
“Catching a bus at the moment is very frustrating for people who are blind or vision-impaired,” she said.
“It’s very stressful — it’s the least favourite part of my day.”
The Adelaide software developer regularly uses a stop that is serviced by several routes, but selecting the right one can be difficult.
“I’m legally blind, everything’s blurry and cloudy so I can’t actually see the bus numbers to know which bus is coming,” she said.
“What I actually do is stand at the bus stop with my cane and wear a high-vis vest and hold out a sign with the bus number I want to catch, and then I’m relying on the [driver] to see that sign.”
Convinced that there must be a better way, Ms Hames became determined to devise something that “not only helps me but others as well”.
Using her professional expertise as a programmer, she has set about developing a simple, elegant and user-friendly solution — an app called “See Me”.
Rather than being forced to wait anxiously on a kerb in the hope of hailing the right bus, people who are vision-impaired would instead have the option of alerting the driver from their phone.
“When you’re at the bus stop, you see a list of buses that are due to arrive soon, you can click ‘request’,” she told ABC Radio Adelaide’s Jules Schiller.
“On the bus we’re going to install a device to receive the request. The bus driver, as they’re approaching the stop, they get a notification to say someone’s waiting.”
Once on board, users would also have the option of again resorting to the app as they approached their stop.
“You can also select what stop you want to get off at, instead of trying to find where the button is on the bus,” Ms Hames said.
Ms Hames works at Adelaide’s Tonsley innovation precinct, and was recently named as one of three recipients of this year’s international Holman Prize.
The award is bestowed by the San Francisco-based LightHouse, an advocacy organisation for the vision-impaired, and comes with $US25,000 in grant money to fund projects such as See Me.
While there are already several existing methods providing assistance to Adelaide public transport users who are blind and vision-impaired — including audio messages at train and tram stops — Ms Hames is not aware of anything comparable to See Me.
She said she was already in discussions with state transport departments around Australia about future uptake, and is aiming to have the app ready for a trial by August next year.
“I’ve already got friends asking to be part of the trial,” she said.
“I think it’s going to really alleviate that stress.”