Carnegie Mellon and University at Buffalo Researchers Improving Transit and Sidewalk Access for People with Disabilities-Quality of Life Technology Center - Carnegie Mellon University

Monday, October 28, 2013

Carnegie Mellon and University at Buffalo Researchers Improving Transit and Sidewalk Access for People with Disabilities

Five Year, $4.6 Million Federal Grant Supports Continued Accessibility Research

PITTSBURGH - Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, are collaborating on a five-year, $4.6 million federally funded project to advance physical access and public transportation for people with disabilities by bringing together computer science technology and the principles of universal design.

The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Accessible Public Transportation (APT) has received a new grant from the U.S. Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) that extends the existing five-year grant that concludes this year.

The center will develop ways to empower consumers, manufacturers and service providers in the design and evaluation of accessible transportation equipment, information services and physical environments.

The center's principal investigator is Aaron Steinfeld, an associate research professor at Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute who works on human-robot interaction and intelligent transportation systems in the Quality of Life Technology (QoLT) Center, headquartered at Carnegie Mellon.

Steinfeld will co-direct the center with his father, Edward Steinfeld, a professor of architecture at the University at Buffalo who heads the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA).  The IDeA Center improves the design of environments and products by making them more usable, safe and appealing to people with a wide range of abilities.  The center is a world leader in universal design, an important component of the new RERC's work.

"Universal design is a human-centered approach to design and business practices focused on creating a more convenient, comfortable, healthier and safer environment for everyone," Edward Steinfeld said.  "It extends the lessons learned in design for disability to all riders, recognizing that the transportation environment presents challenges for all.  It not only increases social integration for people who have physical and mental challenges but, by doing so, reduces costs by removing the burden of providing special services, facilities and products."

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon will use Tiramisu Transit, an app developed under the prior RERC, to understand how real-time trip information and community dialog can empower accessible travel.  Buffalo researchers will continue design research to make boarding and disembarking buses faster, safer and more accessible.

Another project will leverage existing technologies supported by the Traffic21 program at Carnegie Mellon to develop software systems to help riders during multi-modal trips.  Collaborations with industry also are planned, continuing the team's prior work on vehicle designs with the Gillig Bus Corporation and starting a new effort with the Dallas Smith Corporation.  The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority in Buffalo and the Port Authority of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh continue to assist the researchers as they develop new technologies and concepts.

"As with our first RERC grant, we think it is critical to include input from transit users in all of our projects," said Carnegie Mellon's Aaron Steinfeld.  "Transit is a community that includes riders, service providers and industry. Each has an important voice and valuable perspectives."

For more information on the RERC on Accessible Public Transportation, see:  http://www.rercapt.org/.

###

About Carnegie Mellon University:
Carnegie Mellon (www.cmu.edu) is a private, internationally ranked research university with programs in areas ranging from science, technology and business, to public policy, the humanities and the arts.  More than 12,000 students in the university's seven schools and colleges benefit from a small student-to-faculty ratio and an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation.  A global university, Carnegie Mellon has campuses in Pittsburgh, Pa., California's Silicon Valley and Qatar, and programs in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Mexico.

About the University at Buffalo's IDeA Center: 
The IDeA Center at SUNY Buffalo is dedicated to improving the design of environments and products by making them more usable, safer and appealing to people with a wide range of abilities throughout their life spans.  Originating in the practices of accessible or "barrier free" design and "normalization," the concept of universal design seeks to make the everyday world more accessible and usable to a broad range of people, including people with disabilities and other often overlooked groups.  The IDeA Center provides resources and technical expertise in architecture, product design, facilities management, and the social and behavioral sciences to further these agendas.

By: Byron Spice, bspice @ cs.cmu.edu, 412-268-9068