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Integrating a feature in Via Transportation's app to help visually challenged people have easier access to transportation


User Research, Strategy, Ideation, Wireframing, Design and User Testing


3 months


Via Transportation


Leo Luo,
Matan Sagee,
Manika Agarwal,
Nethra Gomatheswaran


Using different screen colors to help drivers identify passengers was a part of our key feature. This was derived from our insights and user research. Read the case study to know the other features that help hailing cabs easier for people with visual disabilities.

underserved market

We spoke to over 20 people of varying backgrounds, ages, gender, and disabilities, in order to understand what difficulties they have when it comes to accessing transportation. We wanted to narrow our focus group to keep the solution as effective, customized and focused as possible. Therefore, we identified a segment of our target audience: visually challenged people. They struggle the most when it comes to accessing transportation, and booking cabs. Therefore, we narrowed our target audience to visually challenged people.


pink screens 01.png


Why should this topic be addressed immediately?

1 out of every 4 people in the United States has a disability. Several of these disabilities make it difficult for people to access something as basic as transportation, on a daily basis. We believe that design should be inclusive, and our team set our to help Via Transportation with research, design, prototyping, and testing a solution that can be more inclusive.

needs most help with transportation

via 01.png

Many of the insights we discovered were faced by the target audience every time they wanted to hail a cab. The current application they use, Access-a-ride, needs to be booked 2 days in advance, and the following insights are challenges faced when using Access-a-ride, and other private cab companies.

of the target group experienced delays in ETA that they were not made aware of and had to wait at the pick-up point for a long time.

10-60 mins

is the minimum wait time at the pick-up point. 95% of the target group interviewed waited for at least 10-60 minutes, at least once while hailing cabs, using Access-a-ride.


of the target audience has had cab drivers cancel their rides when they knew that passengers needed more assistance.

What were our most surprising discoveries?


How can we design a solution that is inclusive and helps both drivers and passengers make the cab-hailing process easier?


How did our insights inform our ideas?

Our team that consisted of 4 people came up with 120 ideas of different ways to help transportation be more accessible to people with visual disabilities. With the questions listed below, we narrowed down and removed ideas that did not answer match the following criteria:

VIA 01.png




We wanted to test phone vibrations, which increase in frequency as the driver gets close by in order to notify the passenger, similar to the Hot-Cold game kids play.


We wanted to find quick and easy ways to test if vibrations would work. We put out phones on vibrate mode and sent WhatsApp messages to trigger vibrations of different frequencies of vibrations.


Pairing up the driver and the passenger with light, so the driver can identify the passenger based on the light he sees the passenger holding up.


We tried various colors that would stand out on bright days, gloomy days, busy and scarce pathways. In the photo below, the color is tested from about 50 meters away.


We attempted to guide the passenger to the driver, based on what side of the road the driver was located on.


We tested this idea with the team, at a scarcely populated junction. However, the GPS was not accurate, and this idea was not feasible.

Via's hero Image.HEIC

Testing the color feature to help drivers identify passengers at different times of the day and at different parts of the city

driver 10 mins.png


How did understanding the user journey help us narrow down our design focus?


How did we test our concepts in the quickest, most efficient way?

We tested our solutions with 12 people from sessions at Visions at Selis Manor. The rest of our prototypes were tested with the team for technical feasibility.

We decided to focus on the pick-up process, given that most of the problems stemmed from this phase. The below-illustrated user journey highlights pain points faced by the passengers and drivers at each step.

via user journey.png


How can our feature make Via Transportation more accessible?

To ensure that no driver cancels a ride with a passenger who needs assistance, it is only revealed 2 minutes before if a passenger is visually challenged. By that time, the driver is almost the destination and chances of the driver canceling the ride are low.

ETA > 2minutes

Driver 2mins.png

ETA = 2minutes


For the Driver

Via ETA=10.png

The driver's screen remains unchanged, and just sees the ETA in real-time.

via green UI screen.png

For the Passenger

The vibrations + sound increase in frequency as the driver gets closer, signaling to the passenger to start walking towards the pick-up point.

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 11.19.59

The passenger holds up the phone with this colour, and the driver identifies the passenger based on the color.

Once the driver is close-by, he picks a color that the passenger's phone will light up in, therefore, helping him identify the passenger.

Nethra Gomatheswaran 2020
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