Transport for Wales (TfW) has successfully trialled the new on-board personal announcement service for hearing-impaired passengers
The Hearing Enhanced Audion Relay (HEAR) app provides personalized journey information announcements and has been trialled on TfW trains using the Rhymney – Penarth route over a two month period. The HEAR application is part of the train operator’s offer to improve the journeys of hearing-impaired passengers.
Passengers using the app can connect to onboard Wi-Fi and receive real-time personalized travel announcements on their smart device. The notifications have been specially designed to meet the needs of passengers, an example of which would be the choice to inform them of announcements relating to their destination with the possibility of using both audible and readable formats.
HEAR is funded by the Department for Transport using its £9m First of a Kind 2021 competition which was organized by Innovate UK (part of UKRI).
Michael Davies, Insight and Innovation Manager at Transport for Wales, said: “We are committed to making our network as accessible as possible. Working with GoMedia on HEAR gave us the opportunity to test a solution that could bring huge benefits to customers and encourage people to choose rail.
Around one in six adults in the UK are affected by hearing loss and this figure is estimated to rise to 14.5 million people by 2031, representing around 20% of the population who will suffer from some sort of hearing loss. hearing loss. 60% of passengers with accessibility needs find it difficult to travel independently, which means it is vital that public transport becomes more accessible for all passengers.
Roger Matthews, Managing Director of GoMedia, added: “HEAR offers a more versatile and cost-effective solution for installing expensive hearing loops in trains. The benefits of the solution also go beyond improving accessibility for hearing-impaired passengers – The app itself is customizable, supports multiple languages, and can give passengers a preview of previously made announcements and delay information updates, making it a useful tool for all passengers, where they are coming from abroad or just want to relax during their trip without having to worry about listening to announcements.
The technology was developed by GoMedia, a subsidiary of Icomera and EQUANS, and has also been supported by charities Hearing Link and Hearing Dogs to alleviate the difficulties experienced by passengers with accessibility needs using specially designed technology using real-time information.
A survey of 58 people with hearing loss by charities Hearing Link and Hearing Dogs found that 96% would like a solution such as HEAR to be implemented on public transport, at the moment only 7% were slightly confident that they would be alerted to changes and disruptions while travelling, and only 16% felt they were treated the same as people without hearing loss.