Deployment of An Accessible Wayfinding Smartphone Application Increased 87 Percent of Individuals with Cognitive Disabilities’ Ability to Use Fixed-Route Buses Independently.

Deployment of the Mobility Assistance for People with Cognitive Abilities (MAPCD) Project Measures the Perceived Independence, Community Participation, and Autonomy for Individuals with Cognitive Disabilities.

Date Posted

Primarily funded by the USDOT’s Smart City Challenge, the Smart Columbus Program is a collection of eight transportation, mobility and data studies aimed at improving access to jobs, enhancing tourism, stimulating the economy, connecting residents to safe and reliable transportation, and supporting efficient and sustainable movement of people and goods throughout Columbus. The Mobility Assistance for People with Cognitive Disabilities (MAPCD) study sought to transition users from paratransit services to independent travel and provide caregivers with an interface to create routes for travelers. It used an accessible smartphone app, AbleLink Smart Living Technologies’ WayFinder app, with multimedia prompts to provide customized turn-by-turn navigation of public transit systems with other support features for users. The WayFinder app was developed through funding from the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and has continued to be enhanced as part of USDOT’s Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI). The MAPCD study's WayFinder application was deployed in April 2019 and monitored through use by 31 travelers and 27 caregivers. The deployment period concluded in March 2020. 


Quizzes, satisfaction surveys, questionnaires, interviews and focus groups were used to obtain feedback from the travelers and travelers' caregivers. Anonymized WayFinder app usage and trip characteristics were recorded for each trip. Community mobility specialists also provided their feedback on the app’s acceptability, usability, and the training program. Each participant was asked to respond to five surveys in total; four of these surveys evaluated the training materials, while one survey assessed satisfaction with the WayFinder solution throughout the demonstration period.


Overall, the MAPCD study increased independence and community participation for individuals with cognitive disabilities and enabled persons with cognitive disabilities to travel with greater autonomy.

  • All of the total 82 trips taken by the participants were a shift from caregiver's personal vehicles. The travelers reported an improved feeling of perceived independence.
  • Of all study participants, 87 percent reported that the WayFinder app increased their ability to use fixed-route buses more and rely less on another individual to coordinate their travel.
  • The study addressed certain barriers encountered by individuals with disabilities, such as missing on-board transit announcements or the inability to navigate public transit systems.
  • While the participants (travelers) showed favorable reviews in terms of ease of use of the app, caregivers had mixed reviews.
  • The overall participant feedback on the WayFinder’s accessibility, usability and feasibility is summarized in table 1.


Table 1. Summary of Participant Feedback

Average Rating of Agreement (Out of 4 Possible)

Training Program

WayFinder System