TUM presents the DANOVA project – innovative transport services for the blind

The TUM team responsible for the coordination of the “DANOVA – innovative transport services for blind and visually impaired passengers in the Danube Region” project in the Republic of Moldova held a press conference at IPN with the purpose of presenting the transnational cooperation project, co-financed by the Transnational Program “INTERREG Danube Transnational Programme”, one of the European Territorial Cooperation programs funded by the European Union.

The aim of the DANOVA project is to improve accessibility in airports, ports, train and bus stations for the blind and visually impaired, by developing a set of new services and skills in order to enable them to have full access to all information and transport services.

The project manager, Ilie BRICICARU, dean of the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, director of OSIR – TUM Road Safety Observatory, said that the Technical University of Moldova has undertaken the completion of this cross-border project in the Republic of Moldova:

“It is an important project for us, because, even if the social sphere has been conducting projects in support of people with special needs, there are major shortcomings on the technical side. The relevance of the project consists of having an infrastructure with common facilities for all European countries, so that blind and visually impaired people have the same conditions, the same facilities in transport infrastructure. Initially, an assessment will be made for Chisinau International Airport. Subsequently, the TUM team proposes other activities that will focus on disseminating the results obtained – training courses for the transport infrastructure staff at the Airport, which include extensive knowledge related to people with visual impairments. The project focuses on a new concept of mobility in the urban infrastructure, so that people with special needs feel safe in their everyday lives”, the manager mentioned.

Neli MUNTEAN, financial manager at TUM, responsible for the implementation of the DANOVA project, spoke on the Call for ideas for more accessible transport services for the blind. The ideas will be evaluated by an international and interdisciplinary jury, and the objective of the evaluation will be the degree of quality and usefulness of the ideas. The announcement of the winner will be made on December 1, 2021, and the winner will be able to present his idea at the International Conference in Vienna. The winning idea will be published in the official materials of the project, and the author will be able to meet not only the project partners, but also the funders. The following people are urged to apply: innovators, creative people, entrepreneurs, young people. The call is open from September 1 to October 15, and the first evaluation of project proposals will take place in mid-November 2021.

More than 30 million blind and visually impaired people are registered in Europe, who cannot travel independently, as more than 96% of the European transport system, especially in the Danube region, is not fully accessible to these people.

One of the guests at the conference, Nicolae CIOBANU, main specialist on the activity of the Association of the Blind in Moldova, social issues, culture, sports, media and the activity of territorial organizations in Moldova, stated that the visually impaired members of the association welcome the idea of the DANOVA project. Today, the access to various high-performance accessories, such as mobile phones and computers, allows the installation of digital attachments that provide access for the blind to the transport services provided by each transport institution. In order for these services to be more effective, they should be presented based on the psychology of the visually impaired. Within the Chisinau International Airport it is necessary to have a digital guide, which would indicate where to find different services (ticket office, passenger hall, shops, etc.), and a designated person, responsible for providing guidance for blind people within the Airport. It would be appropriate to install both visual and audible information panels in the halls of transport institutions. At the same time, it would be useful to install a GPS program in the phones, which would help people with visual impairments to move on the street.

According to the Association, there are about nine thousand people with severe and moderate visual impairments, but in the country there are about 20 thousand such people (considering that those who are over 18 years of age and up to retirement age come to the Association).

For blind and visually impaired passengers it is extremely difficult and, in some cases, impossible to use conventional transport – airplanes, trains, urban public transport. The reasons are diverse: they do not have equal access to visual or written information; staff are often not trained to adequately support and communicate with blind and visually impaired passengers; the lack of an adequately accessible infrastructure for these people; differences between existing national legislation on accessibility, from country to country, etc.

In the Danube Region there is a growing demand from organizations that hire and represent blind and visually impaired people to improve or set up new services that will make the environment of transport facilities more inclusive, more accessible, and blind passengers will be treated as equals.

DANOVA’s objective is to meet these needs and use a transnational approach, by means of:

  • international study of best practices and solutions to be implemented in the Danube region;
  • capitalization strategy – supporting decision makers in the transfer of knowledge and solutions in an effective way;
  • involving stakeholders in the process of designing a new transnational transport system concept in the Danube Region, which will be fully accessible to blind and visually impaired passengers;
  • testing innovative solutions in the countries involved in the project;
  • training staff on how to use the new services and how to properly assist and communicate with blind and visually impaired passengers.

The consortium of partners is led by Dubrovnik Airport (Croatia), being well balanced in terms of involvement of airports, ports, academia, local authorities and associations representing the blind: Žilina Airport, Budapest Airport, Budapest Transport Center, University in Maribor, the Bulgarian Association for Transfer of Technology and Innovation, the Croatian Union of the Blind, the Austrian Federation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Dubrovnik Port Authority, Maribor, Montenegro Airports, Kotor Port, Sarajevo International Airport and The Technical University of Moldova.

TUM has been part of this project since February 15, 2021 through the Research Center “Road Infrastructure Safety Observatory – OSIR” within the Department of Transport Infrastructure Engineering, FUA, being registered in the Platform for External Assistance Management (PGAE) with ID 8721186315739.

More details can be learned from the project manager, Dr. Ilie BRICICARU: ilie.bricicaru@dmmc.utm.md.

Project information:

Project number: DTP543 DANOVA

Starting date: 01.07.2020

Closing date: 31.12.2022

Total budget: 2,192,546.66 Euro

ERDF contribution: 1,739,970.00 Euro

IPA II contribution: 362,130.00 Euro

ENI-MD budget: 90,446.67 Euro (including TUM contribution – 13,567,000 Euro).

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