Travel Hands: Story of a Person with Sight and of a Person without Sight, Opening Up London for the Visually Impaired
From the moment someone’s told they’re losing their sight; they’re forced into a journey and there is no clear route – and this is a reality that can affect anyone. The reality is, every 6 minutes someone is told they're going blind.
Think about your daily journey. How many signs and crossings do you pass by? How many intersections or staircases do you navigate, on paths or roads, or tube or bus stations? How many people cross your path, only for you to have to suddenly change direction? Now think about how much harder your day would be if you were partially sighted, or blind: this is what it’s like for the VIP. Over the past several months, we have seen COVID-19 spread across the globe, leaving in its trail a devastating set of consequences for all of us. Especially those who were facing these issues pre-lockdown.
The pandemic has highlighted just how little awareness there is in the society of what it is really like to live with a visual impairment and we are more committed than ever to try to change this.
And no, this is not a niche problem. Often, the visually impaired find the daily task of traveling to and from places stressful and often emotionally exhausting.
Current Services for VIP
- Guide dogs can offer huge support, but with the cost of breeding, raising, and training the dog (and their eventual user) approaching £63,000, it’s not an option available to the most.
- In the UK, the Freedom Pass allows VIP to travel free using public transport.
- The provision of Taxicard, which gives them the option of traveling a distance of up to 2.0 miles for a flat £2.50.
- TFL supports the VIP users by providing Turn Up and Go service in London Underground and Overground stations, where TFL staff assists VIP to and from train platforms.
Life under lockdown has been tough for everyone, but the specific needs of blind and partially-sighted people have been ignored.
We will work synchronically with all options available, helping with journeys to and from to stops and stations that VIP require most help with.
"The thought of using public transport to return to work doesn’t fill me with a desire to change my current work situation anytime soon. I have already heard from many of my visually impaired friends that they have found getting out and about during the lockdown incredibly difficult." Sarah, a VIP
Currently, we are in the process of developing an exciting service called Travel Hands, an app that connects VIP with sighted volunteers to walk together in their similar destinations. With Travel Hands, instead of a VIP having to call a taxi, a friend, or a family member, they call a Travel Hands verified volunteer. A VIP can be sure that the volunteer is more than willing to help because that's why he or she signed up to be a volunteer.
Our volunteers are vetted through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) or recruited through corporate volunteering programs.
During the testing period, the back end team will operate as a call center setup by saving the travel itineraries of registered VIP and volunteers, matching and scheduling them to travel together.
With a small subscription fee of £15 a month, Travel Hands allows VIP to travel safely, inexpensively, and independently.
- Helping VIP to combat loneliness and increase social participation
- Financially helping by saving inessential travel costs
- Improving physical health through more exercise. Together with, thereby reducing the carbon footprint, where walking and using public transport is encouraged.
- Our sighted, verified volunteers can volunteer as per their flexibility, walk more, and have a gratitude-filled experience.
- As well as that, as a thank you, volunteers get goodies and freebies such as a coffee or a free ride with TFL, as incentives from affiliated companies.
The greatest impact being the active participation of VIP in social events and an increase in the economic contribution by VIP as a labor force. Helping VIP face the future again.
“Using Travel Hands, I would feel at ease knowing that I could arrive at my chosen destinations and confidently get to places quickly and efficiently without having to bother anyone or book an unnecessary trip ” Brookes, a VIP.
We hope that going forward, people are more willing to try to put themselves in the shoes of others and not take for granted the freedoms and opportunities they have even after a pandemic.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, sign up today.
Where it all started - Ishan Jha
“I was intrigued by the problems faced by the blind, having had some limited personal experience with it myself half a decade ago. In 2013, after 6 months of an ordeal with diagnosis and solution, I found my way of living my life with struggling eyesight and an ambitious vision for life.
In 2018, I had to choose the thesis topic for my MA degree in Service Design at the University of the Arts London (UAL). I took this as an opportunity to address the question, “How can I increase employability for Visually Impaired People?”. To understand the lives of the blind and partially sighted better, I started volunteering that year in May onwards in the IT skills with assistive technology classes organized in the Southwark Community Centre through the Blind Aid charity. Here, I met assistive technology tutors and a community of Visually Impaired People eager to learn how to use computers and smartphones.
After the completion of the thesis, I founded VIP World, (Visually Impaired People) World Services.
During one of the events organized for the VIP, I volunteered to bring them to the venue from the nearest tube station. The entertaining, unpredictable and in the end gratitude-filled walk laid the foundations for Travel Hands.” Founder of VIP World Services and Travel Hands, Ishan Jha
VIP World Services and Team
Travel Hands is a service of VIP World. A company, where we design technological solutions for (VIP), with the aspiration to shape a more inclusive and prosperous world. We design solutions for organizations that would like to make websites, mobile apps, or services inclusive for VIP by considering the WCAG accessibility standards and by first-hand user testing & feedback from the VIP World Community.
VIP World was founded by service designer, Ishan Jha, and has since grown to 14 passionate people. We have a diverse committed team, consisting of designers, system developers, and digital marketers.
Designed for VIP World by the illustrators and designers at VIP World. All artworks have been created with a heartwarming message related to vision and sight. Each demonstrating the individual artist’s personal aesthetic, the artworks spread the message in their own special way.
Donating?...are you a VIP? - Get Free Monthly Subscriptions when Travel Hand Launches
A corporate or business? for a £500 donation, Team VIP World will provide an accessible brand experience for everyone using your website and apps, through thorough testing and analysis.
Travel Hands is a story of a person with sight and a person without. Help us create this wonderful story.
This crowdfunder will run for six weeks and the rewards are limited. If you can jump in and support the project that would be fantastic. We are also very aware that we’re in difficult times so if you can’t financially support at this time, maybe you could share the crowdfunder on your social platforms?!
Thank you all for helping us making it happen!