County Executive Chris Abele
Press Release

Milwaukee County Launches Pilot Program to Expand Accessibility for MCTS Riders

Aira app helps MCTS riders who are blind or low vision navigate the more than 5,000 bus stops in Milwaukee County

By - Feb 5th, 2020 10:43 am

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) and the Milwaukee County Office for Persons with Disabilities (OPD) today announced the launch of a pilot program that supports MCTS riders who are blind or low vision with increased access to public transportation. Through Aira, an app available on any iOS or Android smartphone, users can receive free, one-on-one assistance riding the bus and navigating the more than 5,000 bus stops in Milwaukee County.

“In Milwaukee County, we are driving towards equity and meeting the needs of our community, and that means building a transportation system that fully serves every rider,” said County Executive Chris Abele. “The launch of the Aira app enables both residents and visitors with visual disabilities to live more freely and safely throughout Milwaukee County.”

The Aira app is an interactive tool that enables riders with visual disabilities to connect with highly-trained professionals trained to help read signage, identify obstacles, identify bus stops and offer verbal step-by-step travel directions. The app, which is available at no cost to users thanks to this pilot program, uses a device’s camera and GPS signal to offer accurate real-time support and guidance.

“Aira is helping remove longstanding barriers to independence,” said Fran Musci, MCTS Director of Paratransit. “Riders who’ve tried the app say it’s making it easier for them to ride the bus. This expands their transportation options beyond the door-to-door van and taxi paratransit services.”

MCTS is the third transit agency in the United States, along with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) in Boston, to take part in an Aira pilot program.

“OPD was proud to launch Aira at select Milwaukee County locations in 2019 and we’re even more excited to expand the service in 2020 to include MCTS buses and bus stops,” said Tim Ochnikowski, Director of the Milwaukee County Office for Persons with Disabilities. “Aira helps visitors just as much as it helps residents. Now someone who is blind or low vision can fly into the airport, get on a bus, and head out to experience and enjoy all that Milwaukee County has to offer.”

Aira is also available at 45 other locations across Milwaukee County – including Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport, the Milwaukee County Courthouse, the Marcia P. Coggs Human Services Center, the Vel R. Phillips Youth and Family Justice Center, the Milwaukee County Zoo and dozens of Milwaukee County Parks.

Once installed on an iOS or Android phone, it takes just minutes to create an account and get started. When speaking to an Aira agent, users should request the free Milwaukee County Transit System offer.

MCTS and its partners are hosting three upcoming training sessions for any user who would like to receive in-person assistance setting up the app and learning how to use it:

Friday, February 7, 2019
10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
MCTS Administration Building
1942 N. 17th Street, Milwaukee

Wednesday, February 12, 2019
10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Vision Forward
912 N. Hawley Road, Milwaukee

Wednesday, February 12, 2019
5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Vision Forward
912 N. Hawley Road, Milwaukee

Those who cannot attend the training sessions can call the MCTS Mobility Management team at 414-937-3256 for more information or visit RideMCTS.com/Aira for instructions, testimonials, and frequently asked questions. Vision Forward (414-615-0124) and Beyond Vision (414-758-2736) also have staff members available to help users learn how to use the app.

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