Wheelchair securement on airlines – Briefing

From the U.S Access Board

U.S. Access Board to Host Public Briefing on Study on the Feasibility of Wheelchair Securement Systems in Passenger Aircraft

WASHINGTON, August 11, 2021 – The inability to use one’s wheelchair on airplanes makes air travel very difficult, if not impossible, for many people with disabilities. Among other challenges, it requires multiple transfers between boarding chairs and aircraft seats, posing injury risks. To address these challenges, the U.S. Access Board commissioned a study to assess the feasibility of equipping aircraft with securement systems so that passengers can remain in their wheelchairs on flights. The Transportation Research Board (TRB), of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, will release its final report mid-September.

The U.S. Access Board will host a public briefing on the final report on September 22 from 1:00 – 3:00 pm (ET).

The briefing will feature a presentation by the TRB Study Committee Members, including Committee Chair Dr. Alan M. Jette, on the two-year research study that focused on the design, engineering, and safety requirements for equipping aircraft with securement wheelchairs. The event is free, but registration is required. Members of the public will be able to pose questions during the event.

For further information on registration, visit the Access Board’s website or contact Rose Marie Bunales at events@access-board.gov. Note that the briefing will include video remote interpreting (VRI) and real-time captioning.

Visit TRB’s website for further information on the project. 

Accessible Autonomous Vehicles (AVS) webinar

The Great Lakes ADA Center in collaboration with the ADA National Network invites you to register for the upcoming ADA Audio Conference Webinar entitled:

Accessible Autonomous Vehicles (AVS)

autonomous transporterFeaturing Randall Duchesneau, Accessibility Specialist, U.S. Access Board.

Date: Tuesday, August 17th, 2021
Time: 2:00 – 3:30 pm ET 

The U.S. Access Board, in conjunction with other federal agencies earlier this year, completed a four-part series on the inclusive design of autonomous vehicles (AVs) for persons with disabilities. Join us as representatives from the Access Board provide an overview and summary of these sessions. In addition, this session will look at the next steps in ensuring AVs are accessible to and useable by persons with disabilities including persons with mobility, sensory and cognitive disabilities. Participants will have an opportunity to ask questions following the speaker’s presentation.

Format: Zoom Webinar Platform (closed captioning will be provided via Zoom and Stream Text link option)

Cost: No Charge

Registration Required:  Use this link to register for this session…

If you do not have an account with our system you will be required to establish one before registering.

Registration deadline: Monday, August 16th, 2021

CEUs: Certificate of Attendance, ACTCP

Questions: should be directed to webinars@adaconferences.org

 

UMaine faculty talk about assistive tech on national podcast

autonomous transporterUniversity of Maine researchers and faculty members, Nicholas Giudice and Richard Corey were recent guests on Assistive Technology Update, “a weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist individuals with disabilities and special needs.” The host of the show, Josh Anderson, is with the INDATA project at Easterseals Crossroads in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Giudice and Corey are co-founders of the  Virtual Environments and Multimodal Interaction Laboratory (VEMI Lab) at the University of Maine and recently were awarded a $300,000 grant from US Department of Transportation.  VEMI plans to develop a smartphone app that will provide the navigational assistance needed for people with disabilities and seniors to enjoy ride-sharing and ride-hailing, collectively termed mobility-as-a-service. The app, known as the Autonomous Vehicle Assistant (AVA), can also be used for standard vehicles operated by human drivers and enjoyed by everyone.

On the podcast, broadcast on March 26, 2021, Giudice and Corey discuss the grant competition and how the AVA app could  allow people with disabilities and seniors to achieve greater independent in transportation. Some of the challenges of the autonomous vehicle technology are also discussed.

 

U.S. Access Board to Host Public Forum on Autonomous Vehicles

US Access Board logoFrom the U.S. Access Board

In March and April, the U.S. Access Board, in partnership with other federal agencies, will host a series of virtual meetings on making autonomous vehicles (AVs) accessible to passengers with disabilities. The four-part series will provide an open forum where members of the public and stakeholders can discuss considerations, challenges, and solutions in designing accessible AVs. All are welcome to attend.

“Self-driving vehicles have the potential to dramatically expand transit options for people with disabilities, so it’s important that they accommodate everyone,” notes Access Board Executive director Sachin Pavithran, Ph.D. “We are undertaking this series to share information and ideas to promote inclusiveness into design and operation of autonomous vehicles.”

The series will cover accessibility for passengers with mobility disabilities (sessions 1 and 2) and accessibility for passengers with sensory or cognitive disabilities (sessions 3 and 4). Each 90-minute session will be conducted through a webinar (Zoom) platform and feature presentations by agency representatives and invited speakers who will review relevant sources and research and outline issues and questions for discussion. These presentations will be followed by an open dialogue where attendees can pose questions or share comments or information.

In addition, an online discussion platform (ePolicyWorks) will provide further opportunity for dialogue and information sharing following the webinar sessions. This discussion forum will be active for two weeks following each session.

The Board is undertaking this initiative jointly with other agencies, including the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy and the Department of Health and Human Service’s Administration for Community Living.

Visit the Board’s website for further details or to register. 

Direct questions to Randall Duchesneau III at events@access-board.gov or (202) 272-0044.

Series Schedule – Inclusive Design of Autonomous Vehicles:  A Public Dialogue

Accessibility for Passengers with Mobility Disabilities: Part 1

This session will cover methods and technologies for entering and exiting autonomous vehicles.

March 10, 2021, 2:00 – 3:30 (ET) 

Register for the March 10 session 

The ePolicyWorks discussion platform will open February 22.

Accessibility for Passengers with Mobility Disabilities: Part 2

This session will address maneuvering and securement in vehicles and continued discussion of entering and exiting autonomous vehicles.

March 24, 2021, 2:00 – 3:30 (ET) 

Register for the March 24 session 

Accessibility for Passengers with Sensory and Cognitive Disabilities: Part 1

This session will address ride hailing and on-board communication for passengers with hearing, visual, or cognitive disabilities.

April 7, 2021, 2:00 – 3:30 (ET) 

Register for the April 7 session 

Accessibility for Passengers with Sensory and Cognitive Disabilities: Part 2

This session will continue discussion of communication accessibility in hailing and interacting with autonomous vehicles for passengers with hearing, visual, or cognitive disabilities.

April 21, 2021, 2:00 – 3:30 (ET)

Register for the April 21 session 

App developed in Maine will help people with disabilities

From the VEMI Lab at the University of Maine Orono

App from VEMI Lab group will help people with visual impairments, seniors enjoy ride-sharing with self-driving cars

University of Maine logoORONO, Maine, January 29, 2021 – Self-driving cars will offer access to ride-sharing and ride-hailing with their suite of modern conveniences. However, many people with visual impairments who use these services rely on a human driver to safely locate their vehicle.

A research group led by the Virtual Environments and Multimodal Interaction Laboratory (VEMI Lab) at the University of Maine is developing a smartphone app that provides the navigational assistance needed for people with disabilities and seniors to enjoy ride-sharing and ride-hailing, collectively termed mobility-as-a-service, with the latest in automotive technology. The app, known as the Autonomous Vehicle Assistant (AVA), can also be used for standard vehicles operated by human drivers and enjoyed by everyone.

AVA will help users request, find and enter a vehicle using a multisensory interface that provides guidance through audio and haptic feedback and high-contrast visual cues. The Autonomous Vehicle Research Group (AVRG), a cross institutional collective led by VEMI lab with researchers from Northeastern University and Colby College, will leverage GPS technology, real-time computer vision via the smartphone camera and artificial intelligence to support the functions offered through the app.

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $300,000 to AVRG for the AVA project through its Inclusive Design Challenge. The initiative sought proposals for design solutions that would help people with disabilities use autonomous vehicles for employment and essential services. AVRG was one of the semifinalists.

“This design challenge was exciting to us as it falls so squarely in our wheelhouse” says Nicholas Giudice, a professor of spatial Computing at UMaine. “We have worked in the areas of multimodal information access and navigation for visually impaired people and older adults for years, and have recently started a research program investigating human-vehicle collaborations for increasing the trustworthiness and accessibility of autonomous vehicles. This development project connects the dots by allowing us to bridge several areas of expertise to ensure that the technology of the future is ‘accessible for all.’”

Users will create a profile in AVA that reflects their needs and existing methods of navigation. The app will use the information from their profiles to find a suitable vehicle for transport, then determine whether one is available.

When the vehicle arrives, AVA will guide the user to it using the camera and augmented reality (AR), which provides an overlay of the environment using the smartphone by superimposing high-contrast lines over the image to highlight the path and verbal guidance, such as compass directions, street names, addresses and nearby landmarks. The app also will pinpoint environmental hazards, such as low-contrast curbs, by emphasizing them with contrasting lines and vibrating when users approach them. It will then help users find the door handle to enter the vehicle awaiting them.

“This is the first project of its kind in the country, and in combination with our other work in this area, we are addressing an end-to-end solution for AVs (autonomous vehicles) that will improve their accessibility for all,” says Giudice, chief research scientist at VEMI Lab and lead on the AVA project. “Most work in this area only deals with sighted passengers, yet the under-represented driving populations we are supporting stand to benefit most from this technology and are one of the fastest growing demographics in the country.”

AVRG studies how autonomous vehicles can meet various accessibility needs. VEMI lab itself has explored tactics for improving consumer trust in this emerging technology.

AVA advances both groups’ endeavors by not only providing another means for people with visual impairments and other disabilities and seniors to access self-driving vehicles, but also increases their trust in them. The project also builds on a seed grant-funded, joint effort between UMaine and Northeastern University to improve accessibility, safety and situational awareness within the self-driving vehicle. Researchers from both universities aim to develop a new model of human-AI vehicle interaction to ensure people with visual impairments and seniors understand what the autonomous vehicle is doing and that it can sense, interpret and communicate with the passenger.

The app will offer modules that train users how to order and locate rides, particularly through mock pickup scenarios. Offering hands-on learning provides users confidence in themselves and the technology, according to researchers. It also gathers data AVRG can use during its iterative, ongoing development for AVA and its integration into autonomous vehicles.

“We are very excited about this opportunity to create accessible technology which will help the transition to fully autonomous vehicles for all. The freedom and independence of all travelers is imperative as we move forward,” says VEMI lab director Richard Corey.

VEMI Lab, co-founded by Corey and Giudice in 2008, explores different solutions for solving unmet challenges with technology. Prime areas of research and development pertain to self-driving vehicles, the design of bio-inspired tools to improve human-machine interaction and functionality, and new technology to improve environmental awareness, spatial learning and navigational wayfinding.

FMI Contact: Marcus Wolf, 207-581-3721; marcus.wolf@maine.edu

See also article on Cool Blind Tech blog…

Rules Proposed to Improve Access to Vehicles for People with Disabilities

automobile with hand controlsThe U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released for public comment a proposed rule to improve access to motor vehicles, including rental cars, for people with disabilities. The rule proposes changes to NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard to facilitate the use of adaptive equipment in rental cars and to simplify vehicle transport of wheelchairs and scooters.

Federal law generally prohibits making a vehicle’s safety features inoperable. One proposed change would permit rental car companies to temporarily disable a driver’s air bag to install hand controls. In an accident, the deployment of the knee bolster air bag can result in the hand controls hitting and injuring the driver. A second proposed change would allow installation of rear-mounted transporters for wheelchairs and scooters. These transporters may obstruct the view of a vehicle’s backup camera.

Public comments are due January 27, 2021. For further information, visit DOT’s website or contact Gunyoung Lee of NHTSA Office of Crash Avoidance Standards at (202) 366-6005, Daniel Koblenz of NHTSA Office of Chief Counsel at (202) 366-5329, or David Jasinski at (202) 366-5552.

 

Remembering Travis Roy

Photos of Travis RoyThe news of the untimely passing of Maine Sports Hall of Fame legend Travis Roy was met this past weekend with accolades coming from all parts of the sports world. All Mainers know the story of the promising 20-year-old hockey star from Yarmouth whose life was forever changed in October 1995 when eleven seconds into his first Boston University men’s ice hockey match he slid into the boards and suffered a spinal cord injury. The injury was permanent, ending his dreams of a NHL career and leaving the young man with quadriplegia.

Most Mainers also know that two years later, Roy would start the Travis Roy Foundation and rally to become one of the country’s best philanthropists, advocates and motivational speakers.

Since 1997, the Travis Roy Foundation has distributed more than $9 million in grants to people with spinal cord injuries and to research projects and rehabilitation institutions. The individual grant funds have been used to modify vans and to purchase wheelchairs, computers, ramps, shower chairs, and other adaptive equipment to help people with spinal cord injuries live their lives.

Called the Travis Roy Foundation Quality of Life Grant Program, the program funds adaptive equipment and assistive technology, as well as home modifications for people paralyzed from a physical spinal cord injury. While there are some restrictions to the grant program, there is no age requirement and grants are available up to $5,000. Applicants must have financial need and may be asked to provide supporting financial documentation.

Thank you, Travis.

Use this link to learn more about the Travis Roy Foundation Quality of Life Grant Program

Use this link to learn more about Travis Roy – Boston Globe

 

Photo credit: Images of Travis Roy from the TR Foundation

Wheelchair Securement Systems on Airplanes Studied

US Access Board logoThe U. S. Access Board, in partnership with the Transportation Research Board (TRB), is studying the feasibility of installing wheelchair securement systems on commercial aircraft as directed by Congress under the FAA Reauthorization Act. A committee of experts TRB organized to conduct this assessment held its third public meeting on August 11, 2020.

The committee is evaluating the design, engineering, and safety requirements for equipping aircraft with securement mechanisms for non-motorized and motorized wheelchairs. Its members include experts in aircraft interiors and safety engineering, accessibility, wheelchair design and crashworthiness, airline operations, and other disciplines.

At the meeting, the study committee received presentations from airline engineers on technical issues and aircraft interior design considerations, wheelchair manufacturing and design experts, and speakers who addressed how securement systems could provide passengers with disabilities an equivalent level of service and safety in air travel. The meeting also included a panel on the operational implications of using wheelchair securement systems, which included speakers representing airlines, flight attendants, and contract service providers who routinely assist passengers with disabilities in the boarding process.

The Committee plans to hold its next meeting in October. Further details will be released at a later date. For further information, visit TRB’s website or contact Anusha Jayasinghe of TRB at AJayasinghe@nas.edu or (202) 334-2401.