Third Sector Awards 2016: Breakthrough of the Year - Winner: Royal London Society for Blind People for Wayfindr

This award is an opportunity to showcase something new or different. Areas could include supporter and/or donor engagement, extending the reach of the charity or introducing a new way of working

Wayfindr in action
Wayfindr in action

What is Wayfindr?

It uses smart technology to help visually impaired people travel independently.

Where did it come from?

The RLSB was aware that a lack of mobility was one of the biggest barriers to employment for blind people and often led to poverty, isolation and depression. It found that 50 per cent of young blind people said they did not feel confident about using the London tube because of inconsistency in support at stations. So the charity formed a partnership with the digital studio ustwo to set up Wayfindr. 

How does it work?

The system, which is being trialled on the London Underground, uses special beacons placed on platforms and walkways to transmit location messages to navigation apps on smartphones and thus give accurate verbal directions from A to B.

What has it achieved?

Feedback from young people who have used the scheme, which has been tested with more than 100 people, suggests they think it will change their lives.

The scheme, which has been supported by a total of about £1m in funding from Google and Transport for London, is expected to open up the tube to more than 25,000 visually impaired Londoners in the next five years and improve the trips of 87,000 more who already use the tube.

The charity says Wayfindr is set to become the global benchmark for audio navigation using mobile devices, with trials planned for the UK rail network and work continuing with stakeholders in cities including Los Angeles, Sydney, Amsterdam and New York.

What did the judges say?

Jake Hayman, founder of the philanthropy consultancy Ten Years’ Time, said: "What a smart approach to bring service user insight together with technology and a cross-sector partnership."

Highly commended

International Mixed Ability Sports for the Mixed Ability Model


Amnesty International for 360 Syria

NHS Blood & Transplant for Operation Donation

Redthread for the Youth Violence Intervention Programme

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