Wednesday, March 9, 2011

JFActivist: Transportation: Will Technology Innovations Benefit People with Disabilities?

By Jenifer Simpson, AAPD Policy

On February 23, 2011, AAPD was invited to attend a workshop on “Technological Innovations in Transportation for People with Disabilities” held by the Federal Highway Administration in McLean, VA. The event was convened by Mohammed Yousuf in the Office of Operations Research & Development at the agency, as part of their Exploratory Advanced Research (EAR) program. The EAR program is examining how current and future advancements in intelligent transportation systems and other technologies could improve accessible transportation for people with vision disabilities and for people with other disabilities. The aim would be both to advance safety and promote greater independence.

While connection of vehicles through wireless networks is a current focus for intelligent transportation – for the purpose of more efficient use of vehicles and the goods they transport – pedestrians can also benefit from technology advances. Research on vehicle-highway interaction, nanotechnology, and a host of other types of transportation research in safety, pavement design, highway structures and bridges, human-centered systems, operations and intelligent transportation systems, and in materials science can all offer new ways to provide accessibility for people with disabilities.
The workshop included presentations on advances in wireless technology, computer vision, artificial intelligence and robotics. Discussion focused on how these new technologies could be integrated to assist people with disabilities to be more mobile and independent. For instance, wayfinding, navigation, orientation and guidance for people with vision disabilities could be enhanced by more wireless connections and better databases of information about the built environment. Similarly, people with intellectual disabilities might benefit from devices that provide directions and guidance. A key component to new tools for accessibility by people with disabilities is greater availability of sensor devices that can be attached to objects in the environment, such as lamp posts, traffic signs, building entrances, vehicles etc.

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