By Barrier Free Japan with extracts from The Kobe Shimbun
January 19 2022
KOBE – Hyogo Prefecture has become the first prefecture in Japan to use a new guidance system for the blind and visually impaired whereby the colour of traffic lights can be detected via a smartphone.
The Hyogo Prefectural Police introduced the new system at the end of last year at a total of 11 locations in Kobe and Amagasaki cities, in an effort to create an environment whereby the blind and the elderly can safely cross the street. The number of locations is scheduled to increase to 20 by March, with plans to expand the number of locations after that.
According to Nippon Signal (Tokyo), which developed the app, it uses Bluetooth, a short-range wireless communication system, and depending on the model of the smartphone, the information can be received from a distance of about 10 meters.
According to the prefectural police, there are 462 traffic signals in the prefecture that have an acoustic function to let people know which signal is green by making sounds such as “pyo-pyo” and “cuckoo”. However, due to considerations for nearby residents and the actual conditions of use, the majority of these systems sound between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., and none of them are available 24 hours a day.
Hyogo Prefecture is the first prefecture in the Kinki region to install the system. The prefectural police and organizations for the visually impaired have discussed the installation of the system, giving priority to those near welfare facilities.