Finding Innovative Solutions for Accessible Transportation

Many individuals with disabilities face mobility challenges that prevent them from holding employment. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI) recently invited the public to join in on a nation-wide discussion. The purpose of the event was to gather innovative ideas to address transportation challenges faced by individuals with disabilities.

The discussion was hosted on ePolicyWorks, an online forum that encourages citizens and policymakers to work together to find innovative solutions. Through hosted dialogues, individuals are invited to submit ideas, comment on posts and vote on the ideas or comments they support.

In the current discussion, open until December 18, 2015, individuals interested in transportation and employment have been encouraged to submit their ideas on the topic “Breaking Down Employment Barriers with Accessible Transportation Innovation.” The two areas of focus in this technology-focused discussion are:

•What new technologies should be developed to enhance personal mobility accessible transportation options for older adults and people with disabilities?

•What existing (or new) APIs, Open Source code and other accessible data sets could be used/are needed to create new transformative accessible transportation applications?

Currently, 27 ideas have been submitted. One of the top voted ideas submitted so far is a tool to help city planners and policy makers map accessibility via public transportation. Through open data and digital tools, city planners can identify areas that need additional services when planning future transportation expansions. This tool would also help individuals that rely solely on public transportation find new areas of residence and jobs with transportation opportunities.

Another idea submitted, is to build an application to utilize crowdsourcing as a method to build and support maps and navigation tools for those with vision, hearing, mobility and cognitive disabilities. An individual who commented on this idea gave the example of the tool, Ushaidi that was originally developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election violence in 2008. The success of this tool demonstrates the power of crowdsourcing and real-time updates on important travel and safety information. A tool, like Ushaidi, can be developed by using crowdsourcing to fill in the gaps of data availability for individuals with disabilities.

Another individual suggested more cities adopt a policy passed by Louisville, Kentucky that made it possible for application developers to provide accurate navigation tools for the blind. In 2009, Louisville made all municipal information, such as building structure information and addresses, available to the public.

A local business, American Printing House for the Blind, was able to develop and improve their GPS application called Nearby Explorer, which gives precise navigation instructions for individuals that are blind. Nearby Explorer turns visual maps and city infrastructure data into an audio format so individuals can hear directions to specific locations. Louisville is setting the example of how other cities can adopt this open policy enabling other companies to develop tools to improve accessibility.

Many of the ideas submitted will help policymakers improve transportation accessibility, empowering individuals with disabilities to gain employment. If you wish to participate by submitting your own ideas, voting or commenting on other ideas, please visit the discussion at