Accessibility for Passengers with Sensory or Cognitive Disabilities

Vehicle Controls Should be Universally Designed

On today's US Access Board AV Inclusive Design Webinar, Dr. Robin Brewer discussed results of focus group discussions she held with members of the blind, visually impaired and people with intellectual disabilities. She discussed the issue of "command and control," and I think the comments she was relaying, primarily from members of the blind community, were interesting. According to Dr. Brewer, a number of people discussed the desire/need to be able to control the vehicle. In fact, she discussed techniques that could be used to make driving accessible for people who are blind. She pointed out that people identify as drivers, and it is important for these people to be able to maintain that identity, and we need to design accessibility that supports them. So here's the thing. It seems that the industry is moving toward higher levels of automation that do not preserve the existence of a human driver. There are many reasons for this, but to the extent it is true, it would seem to me that we need to be careful about dumping huge amounts of research and development into the task of making transitional technology (such as driver-assisted autonomy) accessible. However, I support the bigger argument, and this needs to be non-negotiable. To the extent that any human being can control any aspect of the use of an autonomous vehicle, every attempt should be made to ensure that all human beings can exercise the same control. In other words, we need to universally design all aspects of the technology and not introduce any forms of human control that cannot be universally designed. And I would echo a comment made later regarding people who need those controls to be hard-wired as well as mobile, and the hard-wired control must also be universally accessible to the extent possible.

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Idea No. 556