According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 19 percent, or 56.7 million of the U.S. population, lives with some type of disability. For some of these people, basic tasks such as finding reliable means of transportation may prove difficult.
The Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) recently designed a series of workshops and webinars aimed at gaining input on mobility and transportation technology preferences and needs from people with disabilities. The project was sponsored by the Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative, a U.S. Department of Transportation multimodal multi-agency research and development effort.
“The overall goal of this project was to ultimately enhance mobility of travelers with disabilities by providing the capability to reliably, safely and independently plan and execute their travel,” said TTI Associate Research Scientist Suzie Edrington. “So it was important to gather input from those who would benefit the most.”
The methodology developed walked participants through a hypothetical typical trip using the following five trip segments: 1) trip planning, 2) departure, 3) en-route, 4) arrival and 5) return. These trip segments were used to show existing or emerging technologies and to help participants visualize technologies that could remove barriers to achieve reliable, safe and independent travel.
“During the hypothetical trip planning exercise, the participants provided feedback on user needs and barriers for each trip segment respective to the target population, and recommended technologies and solutions that could facilitate their travel experience with minimal/reduced disruption,” explained Edrington.
The outcome was the development of a comprehensive representation of user needs and possible technology solutions that remove barriers to transportation according to four functional disabilities: visual, hearing, cognitive and mobility.
“The importance of providing safe, reliable mobility for persons with disabilities is of critical importance as it provides them with independence and greatly enhances their quality of life,” said Edrington. “Our research provides agencies with the tools necessary to better serve those in need.”