Researchers’ app could help people with visual impairments navigate the NYC subway

Person walking a crosswalk with a cane and a phone displaying a map application

Vice Chair for Innovation & Equity John-Ross Rizzo led a team of researchers at Tandon School of Engineering and Grossman School of Medicine to create an app to help people with visual impairments navigate New York City’s subway system. Commute Booster uses a smartphone camera to recognize relevant signs along a transit route, guiding the user to their destination while ignoring nonessential signs and posters. “The ‘middle mile’ often involves negotiating a complex network of underground corridors, ticket booths and subway platforms. It can be treacherous for people who cannot rely on sight,” said Rizzo. “Most GPS-enabled navigation apps address ‘first’ and ‘last’ miles only, so they fall short of meeting the needs of blind or low-vision commuters. Commute Booster is meant to fill that gap.”