Guide Dogs Victoria and PTV have taken another step towards their shared goal of making Melbourne the most accessible city in the world, unveiling plans to install wayfinding technology at six new locations.

The beacon technology will be introduced at the Footscray, Richmond, Flinders Street, Melbourne Central, Parliament and Flagstaff stations by Christmas. This is in addition to Southern Cross Station where the pilot program took place in 2017. The innovative navigational technology will create better access to Victoria’s public transport network for people with low vision or blindness.

The beacons, located around the station concourses, send signals to the app Blindsquare which translates the signal into navigational content. The app then communicates this information to the user, giving directions to food outlets, toilets and lifts or escalators.

GDV and PTV recently agreed to a three-year extension of their partnership to further improve accessibility on the public transport network. GDV CEO Karen Hayes praised the work PTV have done to improve accessibility and hopes that more organisation will follow suit.

“It’s important that we’re working as a community to make public spaces, events and experiences more accessible to people with vision loss,” Hayes said.

“The announcement demonstrates the power of collaboration in bringing this exciting technology to life, and we look forward to seeing more organisations embrace accessibility in Victoria.”

PTV CEO Jeroen Weimar said the technology would make it easier for people with low vision or blindness to navigate the busy stations.

“The roll-out of beacon technology is a great example of our ongoing commitment to improving access to Victoria’s public transport network for all passengers,” he said.

The announcement coincided with International White Cane Day (IWCD) – a global day of celebration of independence and achievement of people with low vision or blindness. IWCD is also about education and awareness.

Approximately 70 per cent of Guide Dogs Victoria’s services are not Guide Dog-related, this includes white cane users. Recently, the Guide Dogs Australia network commissioned a piece of research into the experiences of white cane users in the community. More than two-thirds of survey respondents said they had been grabbed by someone trying to help them when they had not asked for help. A similar number of respondents said people frequently addressed their companions instead of them, while nearly 60 per cent believed people didn’t understand how or why they were using a cane to navigate.