New app to help sign language users cross the railway safely

Level crossing

Network Rail has launched a new smartphone app that will help enable the one in six deaf people who live in the UK to access a range of information to help them use level crossings safely. The Signly Network Rail app launch forms part of a new campaign that aims to support people with visual, hearing or mobility impairment, who may face additional challenges when using a level crossing.

Signly Network Rail is the first national roll out of this new technology, which can be downloaded for free on Apple app store and Google Play.

The app works much like a QR-code, where smartphone users can point their device camera over leaflets or posters to get more information, but rather than a QR-code it is programmed to recognise an image. The app inserts a smart layer of signed (or spoken/filmed) digital information onto the screen of the user’s own mobile device. They simply open the app, point their device at the Signly-enabled information, and a sign language translator appears as if by magic.

Working together with a deaf charity and a specialist communications company, Network Rail is launching the app at the Deaf Info exhibition, part of the Deaf UK 50+ annual holiday, attended by over 400 members of the older deaf community.

As well as launching Signly, Network Rail has worked with the Royal Association for Deaf people, Action on Hearing Loss, Scope, the Built Environment Accessibility Panel and The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association to produce an accessible user guide. This offers safety advice and information on audio, visual and tactile cues and also the warnings that are present at some of Britain’s level crossings to help users know when it is safe to cross the tracks. The user guide is available in large-print written English, plus British Sign Language through Signly Network Rail, which also provides an audio description. Alternative formats can also be requested via Network Rail.

"We want Network Rail’s information to be accessible to everyone who uses the railway, whether as a rail passenger or on a level crossing. This app and information helps more people use level crossings safely.

"Though Britain has one of the safest rail networks in Europe, accidents and near misses with trains still occur. That’s why Network Rail is investing more than £100m as part of our Railway Upgrade Plan to improve level crossing safety across the nation. We hope that this campaign will help everyone who uses the railway to do so safely and with confidence."

Allan Spence, Network Rail’s head of public and passenger safety

To promote the campaign, Network Rail’s level crossing managers will be distributing materials in venues within the local community. The Royal Association for Deaf people will also be working closely with Network Rail to train level crossing managers on how to identify, communicate and support users with hearing impairment.

"The Royal Association for Deaf people has been delighted to work in partnership with Network Rail on this project. We are pleased that Network Rail has considered the needs of the Deaf Community; this has resulted in the development of the Signly app to provide an on-the-spot British Sign Language translation."

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive, Royal Association for Deaf people

Find out more and download/view the user guide

To get in touch with Network Rail for more information and advice about using level crossings, call our National Helpline on 03457 11 41 41 (dial 18001 before the number to activate Type Talk). You can also email us or talk to us via our live help.

Signly Network Rail can be downloaded for free from the Apple App Store and Google Play.

About Network RailNetwork Rail logo

Network Rail owns, manages and develops Britain’s railway – the 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts, and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations (the largest of which we also run). In partnership with train operators we help people take more than 1.6bn journeys by rail every year - double the number of 1996 - and move hundreds of millions of tonnes of freight, saving almost 8m lorry journeys. We’re investing £38bn in the railway by 2019 to deliver more frequent, more reliable, safer services and brighter and better stations.

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