This case study was in collaboration with McMaster University's 2021 Designathon x TWG, a Deloitte Business. Our goal was to answer - How might we increase the accessibility of public transportation, and connect those with accessibility needs to existing resources that can assist them? 


UX/UI Designer - worked collaboratively in a team of 3


Figma, Figjam


Nov 12-14, 2021 (just under 48 hrs)


TWG, a Deloitte business & McMaster Design League

the problem
The target user struggles with:
the users
We're designing for...
  • Public transit rider with physical disabilities (primary)
    a) Lives in the GTA
    b) Uses public transit frequently to commute back and forth between work and home
    c) Middle class
  • Family member/caregiver (secondary)
Our decisions should...
  • Be accessible to seniors and immigrants
  • Consider language barriers
  • Consider users who are not tech savvy
  • Meet digital accessibility guidelines (WCAG 2.0 compliant)
1. Empathize
secondary research
Learning more about the ttc

Since we were targeting ttc riders, we wanted to learn more about how the ttc is currently accommodating those with disabilities. Some of the things we found were that:

  • 34 out of 69 of Toronto's stations are accessible
  • 40% of TTC stations are not wheelchair accessible
  • Over 400,000 Torontonians with disabilities feel leftout every day
  • Physically impaired students and seniors were one of the largest groups of people in Toronto who faced barriers due to lack of accommodation and support.
  • Inaccessible stops and unexpected travel times due to lack of accessible measures at their nearest stops
  • People with disabilities did not like traveling during busy times
  • Problems with Wheel-Trans:
    - costs $20-$50/ride
    - usually has to pick up other people on the way which makes you late to your destination
    - you have to register

These findings really helped us understand our target audience better, the kinds of struggles they were going through, and highlight potential areas of improvement.

2. Define
stakeholder mapping
So who are our primary users?

While doing research, we also identified the relevant stakeholders who would be involved in the process, directly or indirectly on the basis of interest and impact. We felt that physically impaired people and their caregivers were the direct stakeholders with high interest and impact. As indirect stakeholders, the TTC and the City of Toronto would be more involved as well, as they would have a lot of say in the changes that would happen. Indirect and lower impact stakeholders would be daily commuters and tourists, since accessibility is not a huge concern to them.

persona #1
Meet Tim, a paraplegic UofT student

His family has recently moved to Toronto, and he is excited to start his first year at UofT. He is paraplegic, and his family relies on TTC for transportation purposes. He is concerned about commuting by himself, and his needs would involve guidance and information on how to navigate the stations. He has trouble finding his way through the stations as his hands are often preoccupied with maneuvering the wheelchair. So how do we assist his commute independently?

persona #2
Meet Jacky, who is visually impaired

Also, meet Jacky. Unlike Tim, she is visually impaired and usually uses TTC to commute. She is concerned about traveling in unfamiliar routes and areas, as she needs assistance in travelling and finds herself to be nervous throughout the journey. How might we help her feel reassured about her commute?

user journey
Narrowing down on user pain points
Tim's Journey:
Jacky's Journey:
competitive analysis
What apps are currently helping people with disabilities?

The existing apps we found were used by commuters in the USA and Toronto. Apps like Magnuscards & Blindways were used by visually impaired commuters in the USA. We identified the elements that made them successful in their user experiences and compared it with our users' journeys and pain points. This allowed us to create user flows that addressed problems like requiring active assistance or figuring out the nearest accessible route. We also looked at existing transit apps such as Rocketman and Google maps, to identify patterns in how users search up a destination and get directions.

From these apps, some features that we found helpful and wanted to investigate further included:

feature roadmap
Deciding on what features to include
Highest priority:
  • Onboarding: questions that allow for customizability depending on the user and their disability
  • AR camera: for example, being able to take a picture of your surroundings and the app would guide you where you need to go.
  • Virtual assistant who can provide you guidance on where you need to go.
  • Live updates on how busy the route is, so people with disabilities can avoid peak hours
  • A guide on how to use the transit (i.e., how to navigate through the train station)
Lowest priority:
  • Forum page so that people with disabilities can discuss issues and provide guidance to each other
  • Being able to buy and have a digital version of their presto/ttc passes in the app
Navigating through the app

Deciding on the navigation came from thinking about the order of events the user would go through. For example, they would likely start with planning their trip, so they would first need to look up the route. Once they have an idea of where they need to go, they may have some questions/concerns about it, which is why they would go to the cards to get more information. Lastly, the AR/virtual assistance feature is most valuable once they actually start their journey.

user flow
Following their journey

Based on how our users would utilise our proposed application, we created the user flows influenced by the scenarios and the journeys. We focused on three aspects: 

  1. Requiring assistance to find accessible points of entry and exit
  2. Method of communication for any inquiries on how to navigate the subway stations
  3. Finding out the most accessible route for the journey

Tim's scenario: Tim is trying to take the subway from to his next class - he has to find the right subway route, enter the station, arrive at the platform, and board the train.

Jacky's flow: Needs to get to her friends house by taking the subway and streetcar.

3. Ideate
wireframes & hifi
Making some design decisions
style guide
Gathering some of the UI decisions

We chose red as our primary colour as it is often associated with transit. Keeping accessibility in mind, we didn't want to use too many colours as indicators as it may be difficult for colour blind users to differentiate them. We made sure to check that the red that we used passed contrast guidelines, and is above a 4.5:1 ratio.

4. Prototype
To see if users are able to...
5. Test
user testing
How can we improve our design?

After completing our initial hi-fi, we asked a couple of our peers to test the product. We were able to analyze their movements and they were able to provide us great feedback on things we could improve on. Our biggest takeaway was to increase the size of the navigation bar at the bottom of the screen since currently, it did not provide enough room for them to select and tap the options with ease. This is especially helpful for those who may not have the best motor skills, or for those with poor eyesight.

If you're interested, you can view the final prototype below: 

How did this app solve the problem?
How might we increase the accessibility of public transportation, and connect those with accessibility needs to existing resources that can assist them? 
  • Virtual assistant: to take on the role of the “caregiver”, allowing the person with a disability to feel more independent
  • Audio guidance: to help those with vision impairments
  • Camera that uses AI: to help guide users with visual impairments so that they are aware of their surroundings
  • Cards with step-by-step guidance and images to help those with cognitive or auditory disabilities
  • Accessible colours: the red that we use passes colour contrast guidelines
next steps
If we were to take this project further...

While we were coming up with solutions, we came across a bunch of redesign opportunities for TTC stations that we would want to share. Although these are not all digital implications, we thought they were good considerations that would pair well with our app. For example:

the challenges
How we overcame the difficulties
the wins
What we learned
  • Having some sort of plan/timeline set at the beginning is very important
  • Time management is key
  • Even if things don't go as planned, it doesn't mean it's the end of the world
Something I'm proud of
  • My team won 1st place!!
  • How much we were able to accomplish in such a short amount of time, especially considering that none of us knew each other beforehand and all came from different backgrounds.

If you're interested in watching the judges announcement  (9:38-10:35) 😊 
click here