Contact:   Don Hoffman (Lighthouse), 212-981-5118

Partnership leads to accessibility improvements for blind and visually impaired taxi riders in New York and around the nation

April 17, 2012, New York – In partnership with Creative Mobile Technologies (CMT) and Lighthouse International, Council Member James Vacca, Chair of the Council Transportation Committee, and former New York Governor David A. Paterson today announced groundbreaking software enhancements designed to enable blind and visually impaired taxi riders to independently access the credit card payment system and other technology features in New York’s yellow medallion taxicabs as well as taxi fleets around the nation.

CMT created adaptive software that will allow blind or visually impaired taxi passengers to hear the fare changing in regular intervals during the trip and facilitate all aspects of the credit card or cash payment functions upon reaching their destination, including selection of payment options, verification of fare and selection of tip percentages. CMT’s audible touch screen system, which can be activated by a special card or by simply asking the driver, will transform the screen into large, easy-to-navigate sections that are operated by touch and prompted by step-by-step spoken instructions.

“I consistently hear that New York City is one of the most difficult places for blind and visually impaired individuals to navigate,” said Vacca. “The payment system in taxicabs has been a great improvement for passengers, and visually impaired riders deserve to enjoy the same benefits of that system. This nationwide initiative to make taxis more accessible for visually impaired riders is a major achievement, both for the industry, and for this community. I want to commend CMT and Lighthouse for making this a priority. This technology will make a real difference for people who need it.”

This software is critical to the blind and visually impaired community’s ability to independently pay taxi fares. Prior to implementation of this new software, blind and visually impaired passengers who chose to use credit cards were forced to rely on cab drivers to swipe their card and enter the correct amount, including tip. Not only is this a violation of current TLC rules, but also it exposes the visually impaired passenger to the potential for fraudulent transactions, including overpayment.

“As a blind New Yorker I am part of a community that until now did not benefit from the convenience of being able to use a credit card in the city’s cabs when the technology was first mandated in 2008,” said David A. Paterson, 55th Governor of the State of New York. “I applaud CMT for extending electronic payment to an often underserved community by making New York City taxis independently accessible for the vision impaired. Council Member James Vacca and Lighthouse International also deserve a great deal of gratitude for their undying stewardship of this significant issue.”

In addition to its NYC rollout, CMT also plans to introduce software in 4,500 credit card and payment systems in taxis around the country including Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Anaheim, Detroit, Kansas City, Columbus and Charlotte.  CMT and Lighthouse International will issue blind and visually impaired individuals a card, compatible with any CMT taxi nationwide, that will activate the adaptive software, though an activation card will not be required to engage the system.

“CMT is excited to work alongside Chairman Vacca and Lighthouse International to produce these innovative software solutions that will revolutionize the taxi experience for our blind and visually impaired customers,” said Jesse H. Davis, President of Creative Mobile Technologies. “We are very proud of the CMT team for developing this innovative technology, and we praise the hard working advocates at Lighthouse International who provided us with invaluable feedback in shaping its development and to Chairman Vacca who has demonstrated great leadership on this issue. We look forward to rolling out this feature in New York City and in CMT markets throughout the nation.”

“This is an excellent example of the private sector working with government leaders and advocates to voluntarily change a system that has excluded the independent participation of thousands of people who are blind or visually impaired for far too long,” said Mark G. Ackermann, President and CEO of Lighthouse International. “We are delighted to have played a role in this nationwide initiative and will continue working to ensure that every taxi in the nation is accessible to people with a visual impairment. Many thanks to Council Member James Vacca for his continued leadership on behalf of people who are blind and visually impaired and to Creative Mobile Technologies for their willingness to make this a reality.”  

“Having a credit card system that talks will make riding in a taxi more accessible, enabling me to pay by credit card independently. I applaud the efforts of Council Member Vacca and Creative Mobile Technologies for making this possible,” said Ellen Rubin, independent access consultant.

“We applaud this innovation, which we believe will enhance the ability of visually impaired New Yorkers to more independently use taxis and to pay for their trips with credit and debit cards,” said Commissioner David Yassky, Chairman of the Taxi and Limousine Commission. “This is another good example of leveraging technology to help overcome barriers to accessibility, and we look forward to working with the tech community to bring further innovation to taxis with the goal of making taxis more accessible to everyone.”

Lighthouse International estimates that the prevalence rate of vision loss in New York City is 362,000. This number will only increase because of the aging population and age-related causes of visual impairment and blindness, as well as blindness due to uncontrolled diabetes.

 This announcement is the latest in a string of pro-accessibility measures championed by Vacca, whose own father was blind. On March 28, the New York City Council passed three bills aimed at improving mobility for blind and low vision individuals navigating the city. Vacca’s bill, Introduction 745, requires the Department of Transportation to post maps of major street redesigns on its website in a format accessible for people with sight and hearing disabilities. Lighthouse International played a major role in securing the passage of this legislation, which Mayor Bloomberg will sign today at 5 p.m. in the Governor’s Room at City Hall.

About Lighthouse International:
Founded in 1905, Lighthouse International is a leading non-profit organization dedicated to fighting vision loss through prevention, treatment and empowerment. It achieves this through clinical and rehabilitation services, education, research and advocacy. For more information about vision loss and its causes, contact Lighthouse International at 1-800-829-0500 or visit www.lighthouse.org.                                         

About Creative Mobile Technologies (CMT):
Founded in New York City in 2005 by taxi industry leaders, Creative Mobile Technologies (CMT) provides more than 20,000 taxicabs in 60 cities and 35 states with a variety of taxi technologies and enhancements including credit and debit card processing, media and advertising content, text messaging, interactive passengers maps, GPS, electronic trip sheets and back-office fleet management systems. CMT has more than 6,600 units in New York City alone.  CMT’s unique "for the industry, by the industry" business model has empowered taxi fleets and individual taxi operators throughout the country with customized solutions born out of the company’s deep roots in the taxi industry.  CMT’s FREEdom Solution integrates all of the technology including dispatching, banking and media components that has helped to bring the American taxi industry into a new era of efficiency and innovation.

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