As many people know, getting around London on public transport can be a massive headache. As a wheelchair user, or anyone with limited mobility, travelling can be even more intense.
This is why our journey with Simply Business has been so exciting. Whizz-Kidz and Simply Business teamed up to create a revolutionary voice search tool to help disabled people with planning accessible routes on public transport.
Developed during the Simply Business London hackathon, the first of its kind feature has recently gone live on Google Home and Amazon Alexa.
It’s integrated with Transport for London’s API. This means it can replicate the original route planner instructions in a voice-enabled platform, but now it gives meaningful directions for those with accessibility issues.
The journey planning voice recognition tool has been around for a while, but hasn’t taken step-free or other accessibility requirements into account. The new version, when enabled, only suggests accessible routes, and takes the differing journey time into account.
A spokesperson for Google said: “Simply Business is supported by the Google Assistant via the Actions on Google programme, and with the work they have done with Whizz-Kidz, they have created one of the first charity Actions in the UK.
“Whizz-Kidz does a fantastic job every day to help young wheelchair users, and we hope this will help London’s disabled population. We look forward to receiving users’ feedback.”
Business as a force for good
The software was created as part of Simply Business’s commitment to be a business that’s a force for good. Last year, they were accredited as a Benefit Corporation, joining the global B Corp movement, which sets rigorous standards for ethical, environmental and social practices in accredited businesses.
The team that developed the software did so as part of a company-wide ‘create something better’ themed hackathon. The purpose of the event was to develop innovations that either improved services for customers, or have a positive impact on wider society.
“For many people with disabilities, finding accessible travel routes around London is time-consuming and making the journey can be difficult,” said Beatriz Montoya, the Product Lead for the project and Simply Business’s Digital Marketing Director. “Through this project, we are aiming to both simplify the process and make it more enjoyable for disabled people to move around this great city.
“Simply Business is committed to making a positive contribution to wider society, as well as our business insurance customers, and this is one demonstration of how business can be a force for good.”
In 2016, Simply Business picked Whizz-Kidz as their charity partner for the next three years. The voice search function has been welcomed by the young people at Whizz-Kidz as an essential tool that will help improve the accessibility for young Londoners living with a disability, and supports the charity’s aim to ensure all young people have the chance to develop their full potential in life.
“We are delighted to launch this programme as part of our ongoing partnership with Simply Business.” said Ruth Owen, CEO of Whizz-Kidz. “Voice-assisted technology holds so much potential for people with disabilities and we are excited to be harnessing this power to help make journey planning in London that much easier for young wheelchair users and their families.”
“As part of our Get on Board campaign, it has been our aim to improve the accessibility of public transport and we hope this tool will encourage more young disabled people to make use of the transport networks in the capital.”