Disproportionate impact on people with disabilities
Inaccessibility to transportation disproportionately affects people with disabilities, which contributes to, among other lasting impacts, higher unemployment rates for these individuals. Autonomous Vehicles (AVs), also known as self-driving vehicles, can potentially reduce obstacles for individuals whose disabilities limit their transportation options, if they are designed to be fully accessible. Designing AVs to be accessible will enable more people to exercise their basic civil rights, increase their independence and ability to gain employment, and create more opportunities to integrate into their communities. According to a 2017 white paper by the Ruderman Family Foundation and Securing America’s Future Energy (PDF), widespread deployment of accessible AVs could enable two million individuals to pursue job opportunities.
To help ensure autonomous vehicle legislation addresses the disability community, it's vital to increase education about this technology. Like lawmakers, technology developers also need to become more educated on the needs of individuals with disabilities. To date, no major automaker or technology company has committed to an accessible, universal design approach to autonomous vehicles, so the disability community has an opportunity now to advocate for new and more inclusive policy for vehicle design.
This March and April, the U.S. Access Board, in collaboration with other federal agencies, is holding a series of virtual meetings on making AVs accessible to individuals with disabilities. This complimentary four-part series, conducted through Zoom, will provide a public forum discussing the design of accessible AVs, along with the potential complications, considerations, and suggested next steps in implementation. Agency representatives and invited speakers will present on the issues outlined below, and then program participants will be able to share their concerns and ask questions. Further discussion after the live session will be available afterwards through a crowdsourcing platform, ePolicyWorks.
Program schedule (in eastern time)
- Accessibility for Passengers with Mobility Disabilities: Entering and Exiting Vehicles: March 10, 2021, 2:00 – 3:30
- Accessibility for Passengers with Mobility Disabilities: Maneuvering and Securement in Vehicles: March 24, 2021, 2:00 – 3:30
- Communication Accessibility for Passengers with Sensory or Cognitive Disabilities: April 7, 2021, 2:00 – 3:30
- Findings, Recommendations, Future Research, and Suggested Next Steps: April 21, 2021, 2:00 – 3:30
Feedback requested by February 19, 2021
The links provided on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s website address the range of transportation needs of people with disabilities, along with research on how AVs might meet those needs. These documents include resources produced by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and other federal agencies, as well as external organizations. DOT is establishing an Inclusive Design Reference Hub to serve as a library of resources for accessibility in automation. They recently released a Request for Information inviting stakeholders to provide input. Responses are requested no later than 5:00 pm (eastern time) on February 19, 2021.