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

April 22, 2021

The U.S. Access Board held its fourth and final virtual public meeting on inclusive design of autonomous vehicles (AVs) yesterday. The session continued to discuss ride hailing and on-board communication for passengers with hearing, visual, or cognitive disabilities. It included invited speakers who presented on challenges, research findings, and solutions, as well as members of the public who shared comments, suggestions, and information and posed questions.

Access Board Member Karen Tamley opened the session by discussing the value of autonomous vehicles in expanding travel options for passengers with disabilities. Access Board Accessibility Specialist Sarah Presley moderated the session and introduced guest speakers Dr. Aaron Steinfeld of Carnegie Mellon University, Dr. Gregg Vanderheiden of University of Maryland, Darryl Cooper of the Disability Rights Office at Federal Communications Commission, Ted Guild of World Wide Web Consortium, and Bruce Bailey of U.S. Access Board.

Dr. Aaron Steinfeld discussed robotics research that addressed the issue of requesting service to use AVs and called attention to the need for technology to inform passengers of service options such as curbside pickup, vehicle location, and artificial intelligence assistance. Dr. Gregg Vanderheiden presented on enroute problems of AVs and advocated for a spectrum of interface strategies and solutions to ensure accessibility for passengers with cognitive and other disabilities. Darryl Cooper reviewed considerations with acquiring communication services that are accessible under Federal Communications Commission rules, noting attention needed to closed captioning, audio description, emergency information, and user interfaces and program guides.

Ted Guild spoke about the role of the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative for operability in the data model design of AVs such as profiles, geospatial functions, and intelligent transportation systems. Bruce Bailey presented on definitions of information and communication technology (ICT) and information technology (IT) to clarify what is covered under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The presentations were followed by the speakers responding to submitted questions from session attendees.

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

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 are also open for comment until May 5.

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