40,000 of Warsaw’s two million residents are visually impaired. People with visual impairment encounter many obstacles in everyday life and are often unable to actively participate in city life. A survey of visually impaired people in Warsaw found that it can take 60-95 hours of training to learn how to move safely around the city.
Warsaw will be transformed into a city that is fully accessible to blind and visually-impaired people through the installation of Bluetooth beacons that provide access to information about transport, public buildings and cultural activities via smartphone technology. The city is working with blind and visually-impaired people and other partners to pilot and test this approach, while at the same time providing access to smartphones and training in their use to blind and visually-impaired people.
The Virtual Warsaw project has trained over 1,100 blind and visually-impaired people to use smartphones. The training has been very successful. Before the training, 47% of participants described their skills in using a smartphone as intermediate or advanced. After the training, this rose to 93%. As a result, blind and visually-impaired people are using smartphones to travel around the city, search for jobs and be more independent in their day-to-day lives. Virtual Warsaw has also delivered an innovative program of personal support – job coaching, IT skills – to over 100 blind and visually-impaired people. Through its focus on co-creation and user testing, Virtual Warsaw has supported the growth of a community of empowered blind and visually-impaired citizens who are committed to working with the city government to make Warsaw more accessible.