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U.S. Access Board Holds First Session of Public Forum on Inclusive Design of Autonomous Vehicles

March 15, 2021

The U.S. Access Board held its first of four virtual public meetings on inclusive design of autonomous vehicles (AVs) last week. The first session focused on accessibility for passengers with mobility disabilities in entering and exiting vehicles. It included presentations by guest speakers and opportunities for members of the public to share comments, suggestions, and information and pose questions.

Pete Buttigieg

Access Board Chair Gregory S. Fehribach opened the session and introduced a message from Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg who emphasized the need to make AVs both safe and accessible for people with disabilities and remove barriers to transportation resources at large. Department of Transportation Deputy Assistant Secretary for Safety Policy Robin Hutcheson called attention to accessible transportation as pivotal to employment, education, health care, housing, and community living.

Access Board Accessibility Specialist Randall Duchesneau briefly reviewed accessibility guidelines for buses and vans and introduced guest speakers Dr. Victor Paquet of the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access at the University at Buffalo, Amy Schoppman who is Director of Governmental Affairs at National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), and Kevin Frayne who is Director of Advanced Mobility Solutions at BraunAbility.

Dr. Victor Paquet presented results of two vehicle ramp research studies that focused on the effects of ramp slope and multi-segment ramp configuration on human performance during ascension and descension. Amy Schoppman noted the need to work collectively to ensure that the associated complexities and challenges of AVs are addressed for accessibility and inclusivity. Kevin Frayne discussed challenges and innovative solutions with door heights and openings and battery locations. The presentations were followed by a rich open discussion between the presenters and session attendees.

A recording of the session and copies of the presentations are available on the Board’s AV webpage.

The next session in the series will take place March 24 and will cover accessibility for passengers with mobility disabilities onboard vehicles, including maneuvering and securement. This will be followed by sessions on accessibility for passengers with sensory or cognitive disabilities on April 7 and 21. All sessions are free and open to the public, but registration is required. Visit the Board’s website for further details or to register. You can also sign up to receive updates on the sessions by email.

In addition to the virtual meetings, an online discussion platform is currently open to the public to share ideas and questions on designing AVs that are accessible to individuals with mobility disabilities. Dialogues on accessibility for passengers with sensory or cognitive disabilities and next steps will open March 25.

Direct questions about the forum to Randall Duchesneau III at or (202) 272-0044.