COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A project aimed at making it easier for people with cognitive disabilities to use public transit in Columbus is in the final months of its pilot phase. It’s part of Smart Columbus’ Mobility Assistance for People with Cognitive Disabilities project. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) are both partners.
The smart phone application being used for the project is the WayFinder App. The pilot phase has twenty users. One of them is Jose. For privacy reasons we are only using his first name.
“It’s great its very helpful,” he said about the application.
He’s visually impaired and before this past year he had never ridden a COTA bus. The app is specially designed to help people with cognitive disabilities ride public transit. Depending on the user it gives audio, text and visual directions. Jose mostly uses the audio features.
“I use more of the audio to let me know that once we get there to pull the cord,” he said.
Since last April he’s been using with his caregiver, Josh Cook. Cook works with ARC Industries. During the pilot phase which ends this April, caregivers are working with the app users.
“With this they can walk out to the bus stop, they can go where they want when they want, they can feel confident in doing that and also on a caretakers’ side you can be confident they’re being taken care of,” said Cook.
The app also has several safety features built in including tracking. According to Andy Wolpert, Smart Columbus’ Deputy Program Manager, the project initially started in spring 2017. That’s when Smart Columbus, OSU, and COTA all looked at various apps for this project. WayFinder was eventually selected.
“This is really important to helping people get that independence, gain that mobility, independence, that comfort in using public transportation,” said Wolpert.
Caregivers are also able to record their own voice and put custom made directions for the users into the app. Due to the project, Jose has been able to go places like North Market and others he had never been before. He says he’s enjoyed it.
“That’s why I encourage a lot of people to take the bus,” he said.
If a user’s final destination is still a walk away from the bus stop, the app switches over to give them walking directions.
“This project is very important helping to provide mobility services for all of our residents here in Columbus so we want to ensure this successful moving forward and so we’re starting to have those conversations,” said Wolpert.