For Cassie Hames, the seemingly simple task of waiting at a bus stop can be one of the most challenging parts of her everyday life.
- Software programmer Cassie Hames is a regular bus driver and also legally blind
- To make it easier to stop public buses, she is developing an app that alerts the driver
- The idea recently won her an international award and she is aiming to try it within 12 months
“Right now, taking a bus is very frustrating for people who are blind or have low vision,” she said.
“It’s very stressful — it’s the least favorite part of my day.”
The Adelaide-based software developer regularly uses one stop served by multiple lines, but choosing the right one can be difficult.
“I’m legally blind, everything is blurry and cloudy, so I can’t see the bus numbers to know which bus is coming,” she said.
“Actually I’m standing at the bus stop with my cane and wearing a safety vest and holding a sign with the bus number I want to catch and then I rely on that [driver] to see this sign.”
Believing that there must be a better way, Ms. Hames was determined to create something that “helps not only me, but others as well.”
With her professional know-how as a programmer, she set about developing a simple, elegant and user-friendly solution – an app called “See Me”.
Instead of waiting anxiously at the curb hoping to catch the right bus, visually impaired people would instead have the option to warn the driver from their phone.
“When you are at the bus stop you will see a list of buses that are about to arrive, you can click ‘Request’,” she told ABC Radio Adelaide’s Jules Schiller.
“We will install a device on the bus to receive the request. The bus driver gets a notification when he approaches the bus stop that someone is waiting.”
Once on board, users would also have the option to use the app again as they approached their stop.
“You can also choose which stop you want to get off at instead of trying to figure out where the button is on the bus,” Ms Hames said.
Ms Hames works in the innovation district of Tonsley in Adelaide and was recently named as one of three recipients of this year’s International Holman Prize.
The award is presented by San Francisco-based LightHouse, an advocacy group for the visually impaired, and comes with $25,000 in grant money to fund projects like See Me.
Whilst there are already several methods helping blind and partially sighted users of public transport in Adelaide – including audio messages at train and tram stations – Ms Hames is not aware of anything that compares to See Me.
She said she is already in talks with state transport authorities across Australia about future rollout and is aiming to have the app ready for a trial by August next year.
“I already have friends asking to be part of the study,” she said.
“I think it’s going to really relieve that stress.”