Accessibility of Public Transit Systems in Individuals with Mobility Impairments

Mobility-impaired users experience physical and cognitive barriers in using public transportation, such as buses, trains, and subways, which limits their independence and access to employment, education, and community resources. As part of a federally funded research project, I led a study aimed at identifying objective measures of user performance to operationalize accessibility and usability for mobility-impaired users while riding public transit buses. Findings from this research will be used for developing design guidelines that improve the accessibility of future autonomous transportation vehicles for users with diverse levels of functional capability. The study collected data on kinematics and physiological responses using a suite of wearable sensors—inertial sensors, heart rate monitors, and skin conductance sensors—from a large, diverse sample of 96 participants with varying levels of mobility impairment: the sample included users of manual wheelchairs, powered wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers or canes, as well as blind and vision-impaired users. Each participant completed three bus trips. I am responsible for designing and conducting the study, supervising a team of undergraduate students, coordinating with collaborating organizations (viz. the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living and the U-M Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation), analyzing data, presenting research updates and results at the Advisory Board meeting, and preparing publications of our findings.

This project was sponsored by the National Institute for Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research on accessible, inclusive public transportation (NIDILRR).

Project website can be found here.