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For many people who have a disability, taking public transportation is a necessity. But it can also be a nightmare. The barriers abound. It can be extremely difficult to get up and down the stairs on the bus. Riders who use a wheelchair often feel undue attention drawn upon them as passengers sit and wait impatiently while the bus operator secures the wheelchair in place.
The work being done by the NFTA and UB’s Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA Center) is critical for public transit users like Andrew Marcum, program director for the Center for Self Advocacy, a Buffalo-based nonprofit organization that helps individuals with developmental disabilities lead independent, productive lives. The center offers a travel training program that teaches anyone who has a disability how to use the region’s public transportation system.
“Access to reliable, accessible public transit is essential for people with disabilities to be able to live independent, full lives in the community,” says Marcum.
In recent years, IDeA Center studies have helped inform national guidelines for accessible public transportation, including a recent ruling by the U.S. Access Board to change the ramp slope to make it easier for passengers who use a wheeled mobility device and others to board buses. Researchers there also have published several papers in peer-reviewed journals.
“It’s our hope that our research findings will guide standards that will make buses more accessible to all,” says Victor Paquet, professor of industrial and systems engineering in UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
“We want our findings to be communicated not only in the scientific literature, but more importantly, to the people and transportation agencies that can greatly benefit from this information,” adds Paquet, one of numerous researchers from a range of fields at UB who collaborate with the IDeA Center, which is housed in the School of Architecture and Planning.
Other collaborators include James Lenker, associate professor of rehabilitation science in the School of Public Health and Health Professions, who has also worked on the bus studies.
The IDeA Center collaborated with community members who use a variety of wheeled mobility devices to conduct usability testing on three different types of wheelchair securement systems for buses.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations require transit authorities to have two wheelchair securement spaces.
While there are now several other types of securement systems available, the traditional system has been a four-point securement: two hooks for the front of the wheelchair and two for the rear, plus a lap or shoulder belt, all of which have to be attached by the bus driver.
But, says Brittany Perez, an occupational therapist and research associate in the IDeA Center who has led the bus studies, “There are a lot of challenges with this securement system. It’s time-consuming, the wheelchair user often feels that there is unwanted attention drawn to them, and there’s time pressure for the bus driver who is hurrying to stay on schedule.”
“As a result, passenger compliance with using wheelchair securement systems is extremely low,” adds Paquet. “The IDeA Center has been working to find creative ways to ensure that wheelchair users are safe, and that they are more likely to use the securement technologies available on the bus because they’re not as time-consuming or intrusive.”
Researchers began by examining the traditional, manual, four-point securement system that requires the bus driver’s assistance and compared that to two securement system alternatives:
Before shifting focus toward wheelchair securement, the IDeA Center conducted a study examining the slope of a newer bus-ramp technology. The ramp unfolds after the bus door opens and allows passengers to board the vehicle, whether they are in a wheeled mobility device, use a cane or walker, or are a parent pushing a stroller.
Their study, like others, found that a 1 to 6 ramp — meaning a ratio of 1 inch in vertical rise to 6 inches of horizontal run — is safer and easier to use than the previous standard slope of 1 to 4 in transit vehicles.
The IDeA Center also reported that ramps are better than lifts. “The ramp allows riders to enter and exit the bus independently, whereas the use of a lift requires the full assistance of the bus driver,” Perez says. “The ramp can benefit all kinds of passengers.”
Last January, the U.S. Access Board issued a final ruling making the 1 to 6 ramp the maximum slope standard for transit vehicles when the ramp is deployed to the street level.
Jeffrey Sweet, an NFTA equipment engineer who has more than three decades of experience in public transportation, worked with researchers to develop best-in-class equipment for those with special needs.
“We’ve adopted the 1 to 6 ramp, and that’s just one of a number of improvements we have developed,” says Sweet, who is continuously looking at ways to meet and exceed regulations and requirements.
The IDeA Center’s studies on the wheelchair securement and ramp access were both funded through the Administration for Community Living’s Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers (RERC) program.
Prior to the ramp and wheelchair securement studies, the IDeA Center, again through RERC funding, studied the interior design of the NFTA’s 40-foot buses. The research led to improvements in the turn space wheelchair users have when boarding the bus, as well as the positioning of the fare-collection box to make to make it more user friendly.
The IDeA Center and NFTA began their partnership almost 10 years ago. The benefits are mutual. IDeA Center researchers get to take what they learned in the simulation lab and apply it to the real world using NFTA buses and riders who rely on accessible public transportation.
“One of the biggest benefits we have is being able to work with the NFTA and learn about the real-world challenges passengers with disabilities face when taking public transportation,” Perez says.
The IDeA Center has conducted some of its research in its former lab in an annex building on the South Campus, which houses a full scale, low-floor bus simulator that allows researchers to work in poor weather conditions or when an NFTA bus is not available. But the NFTA has also brought some of its 40-foot buses and its smaller Paratransit Access Line vehicles to campus.
“We could stay on campus in our simulator and be limited to what we learn in the lab, but having that open dialogue with the NFTA has been helpful in designing and implementing our research studies. Some of the conversations they’ve had around accessibility are very progressive for a transit authority their size,” Perez says.
Meanwhile, the NFTA is supplied with data from research studies, which the authority can use to inform changes that improve service for all NFTA users. In 2016, the NFTA’s system-wide Metro Bus and Rail services provided a total of 28.1 million rides.
“The IDeA Center really provided us with a tremendous amount of insight and valuable information,” says Sweet. “It helped us exceed regulations and improve our service, based on actual data.”
Metro has a fully accessible bus and rail system. But for passengers who can’t use regular Metro Bus or Metro Rail service due to a disability, the NFTA provides curb-to-curb transportation through its Paratransit Access Line.
“We know from experience that when people have negative experiences using public transportation, they tend not to use it,” says Marcum of the Center for Self Advocacy. “That’s why the research the IDeA Center is doing, and the investments the NFTA is making, are so important. It means better access to the community for people with disabilities.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has awarded six application development research contracts, totaling $6.185 million* for a period of performance through FY 2019, under its Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI) to improve mobility options for all travelers, particularly those with disabilities.
ATTRI is a multimodal departmental effort that has been at the leading edge of identifying and developing transformative transportation applications for all disabilities. “ATTRI’s success depends on working cooperatively with other agencies as well as the private sector,” said Michael F. Trentacoste, Associate Administrator for Research, Development and Technology; Director, Turner Fairbank Highway Research Center. “We recognize the interdisciplinary nature of accessible transportation research and actively seek opportunities to leverage resources, accomplishments, and knowledge advances both within the USDOT and across federal agencies. We can’t do this alone.”
In 2016, ATTRI issued a Broad Agency Announcement soliciting proposals for development of applications that will lead to transformational changes and revolutionary advances in accessible transportation, personal mobility, and independent travel for all travelers, offering a totally new travel experience in intermodal surface transportation in the United States.
With nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population comprising individuals with disabilities, and other demographic trends such as the increasing number of aging Americans, USDOT recognized the importance of exploring innovative mobility options. Emerging technologies and creative service models can offer all Americans enhanced travel choices and accessibility at levels once only imagined.
USDOT is making a significant investment to bring creative solutions to travelers with disabilities and to engage other federal agencies and public-private entities in testing and deploying ATTRI applications in the coming months.
USDOT reviewed a total of 34 proposals and granted the following awards in three application technology areas—wayfinding and navigation, pre-trip and concierge services, and safe intersection crossing:
“The ATTRI program, and the innovators taking part in this important program, are working to make mobility more accessible to all Americans, including those with disabilities,” said Vince Valdes, Federal Transit Administration Associate Administrator for Research, Demonstration and Innovation. “These projects give FTA and the broader USDOT community the opportunity to leverage transformative technological advances to ensure that public transportation fulfills its promise to serve everyone.
Wayfinding and Navigation:
Pre-Trip and Concierge Services:
Safe Intersection Crossing:
A key ATTRI partner, the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research under the Administration for Community Living within the Department of Human Services, will make a separate announcement for applications in the robotics and automation technology area.
These applications will enhance independent mobility for all travelers, including those with disabilities, using transformative technologies, universal design, and inclusive information communication technologies.
Intelligent Transportations Systems Joint Program Office Director Ken Leonard notes, “ATTRI is exploring the formation of an accessible transportation network that is far more economical, expansive, and welcoming, which is of increasing importance not only to travelers with disabilities, but to all travelers in the United States.”
*Includes the base and the optional years and is subject to availability of funds and successful performance objectives.
Source: US DOT
NEW DELHI: The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has told the Supreme Court that persons with disabilities would be given priority for transportation over others in cases of unforseen situations demanding off-loading of passengers from aircraft. The DGCA told a bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan that the payload capacity of an aircraft might change due to technical aspects or weather conditions and, in such cases, the airlines would give priority to persons with disabilities for transportation.
“It is pertinent to mention that the payload capacity of aircraft may change due to technical aspects such as change of aircraft, restriction due to airfield, change in weather conditions.
“If such unforeseen circumstances is encountered by operator and flight is permissible with lesser payload i.e. lesser number of passengers, the first priority will be of persons with disabilities for transportation,” the DGCA said in its compliance affidavit in the top court.
The matter was listed for hearing before the court today and Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand told the bench that they have done “whatever they could do” in this matter. The apex court has posted the matter for hearing after three weeks. The court is hearing a plea filed by a woman with disability who was off-loaded from aircraft in 2012.
The court had earlier ordered the airline to pay Rs 10 lakh as damages to her. The DGCA, in its affidavit, has also said that the concerns raised by the petitioner regarding assistive devices weighing upto 15 kg free of charge as additional baggage have been allowed, subject to the aircraft limitation. “If the passengers prefer to use their own wheelchair, they shall be permitted to use it provided the wheelchair confirms to specifications as laid down by Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee,” it said.
DGCA also said that feedback received were shared with operators for improvement in their services. “CISF has submitted that X-ray screening of prosthetic limbs is mandatory as per existing Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) circulars and it can be done only by removing the prosthetic limb and passing it through an X-ray machine. As per CISF BCAS circular, there is no scope for leniency in respect of persons with disabilities (regarding this),” it said.
DGCA also said optimum implementation of international civil aviation security measures shall be integrated into the design and construction of new facilities and alterations to the existing facilities at an airports. “It is humbly submitted that the directions of this court have been complied with by DGCA,” the affidavit said.
Regarding the petitioner’s suggestion to have free ambulift (assistance to differently-abled persons to board a flight) and towable ramps, the DGCA submitted that provision of towable ramp have been already been introduced at places where such facility is not available.
GATINEAU, QC: Scott Streiner, the Chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency, today shared his vision of a national transportation system that is the most accessible in the world. He outlined this vision in a speech to representatives from disability rights associations and industry.
Since 1988, the Agency has been protecting the fundamental right of persons with disabilities to an accessible transportation network. It does so by making and administering regulations and standards, resolving complaints about accessibility, and undertaking proactive education efforts and audits of transportation service providers.
Last year the Agency launched its Regulatory Modernization Initiative – the most ambitious regulatory review in its history, with the goal of bringing all its regulations in line with current business models, user expectations and best practices in the regulatory field. To date, as part of the consultation phase dedicated to accessible transportation, the Agency has conducted 30 face-to-face meetings and received over 200 submissions from disability rights organizations, industry, and other interested Canadians.
While the Agency is still looking at the input, it found broad support for:
Details on the feedback received are provided in the Agency’s What We Heard Summary Report.
Following the Chair’s speech, he held an all-day meeting with the Agency’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, to further share his vision and receive input on the Agency’s regulatory modernization initiative. Made up of representatives from the community of persons with disabilities, the transportation industry and other interested parties, the Committee provides a forum for engagement and dialogue, helps the Agency develop regulations and guidelines on accessibility, and allow stakeholders to offer feedback on the effectiveness of the Agency’s accessibility-related activities.
“Travel on a plane, train, bus, or ferry is not just a convenience – it’s an essential part of modern life. We should move as close as possible to universal accessibility, with individual accommodation as the failsafe, not the default. We should design for accessibility, build for accessibility, and train staff for accessibility. One in seven Canadians has a disability and this proportion is rising as the population ages, so this is both an ethical and a business imperative.” said Scott Streiner, Chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency
GATINEAU, QC: As part of the Regulatory Modernization Initiative, the Canadian Transportation Agency has issued a What We Heard Summary Report for its first phase of consultations on accessible transportation. The report highlights the key points that have emerged so far, such as the need for a clear, relevant and comprehensive set of rules for all modes of transport, and for those rules to be expressed in mandatory regulations rather than voluntary codes.
The accessibility needs of Canadians are varied and are increasing as the population ages and the percentage of Canadians with disabilities continues to grow. In a recent Government of Canada consultation on creating new national accessibility legislation, participants ranked transportation as third among key areas of focus for the Government of Canada.
To date, during this consultative process, the Agency has received over 190 submissions from disability rights organizations, industry, and other interested Canadians. Comments and proposals will be taken into consideration in the development of the regulation. As part of the consultation, the Agency will also be meeting with its Accessibility Advisory Committee on June 19, 2017, to get their views.
The report is being released during National AccessAbility Week. The week celebrates inclusion and accessibility in communities and workplaces across the country. Where accessibility of transportation comes into play, the Agency fulfills an important role for all Canadians with disabilities.
“Equal access to transportation services for persons with disabilities is a fundamental human right. The Agency is very pleased with the level of engagement and feedback we have received in our consultations on accessible transportation regulations. We look forward to continuing the discussion with our Accessibility Advisory Committee in June.” said Scott Streiner, Chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency.
BEIJING: The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Didi Chuxing, the world’s leading integrated transportation app, launched a cooperation program to provide accessible chauffeured car services for people in need including individuals with disabilities in China on May 29.
The accessible chauffeured cars launched are modified from multi-purpose vehicles and provide more space with adjustable seats and doors. In addition, customized Disability Equality Trainings (DETs) for the chauffeurs have been provided by DiDi and UNDP. From the perspectives of users with different needs, the training guided drivers and DiDi staff on how to provide services and improve products for persons with disabilities.
“At UNDP we strongly advocate for rights of persons with disabilities and these taxis provide convenient and reliable transportation for a group often left behind. We hope these services can help advocate for disabled groups in China and build a more inclusive society for all in line with ‘leaving no one behind’,” said Patrick Haverman, Deputy Country Director of UNDP China.
Over the coming months, this pilot project will build a linkage to Youth Solution Trip, a UNDP initiative to promote youth engagement and innovation, in which users including persons with disabilities will be invited as “product experiencing officers” to provide feedback to the product and services, in order to improve disadvantaged passengers’ experiences. After the initial launch in Beijing, more modified cars will be released into the market and expanded to other cities based on the experience and results from the pilot programme. The project will continue to facilitate DiDi App to remove physical and informational barriers for its users, providing services to more people in need including people with visual and hearing disabilities.
Last year marked the 10th Anniversary of the adoption of the groundbreaking UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which coincides with the year when the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development came into force. The cooperation will call for all members of society to create an accessible and equal traffic environment for persons with disabilities and help raise awareness of disability inclusion in China.
“The DiDi accessible chauffeured car services actively support the 17 SDGs advocated by the United Nations. It not only provides a safer, more convenient transportation method for the disabled group, but also defends their equal rights,” said Fu Qiang, Senior Vice President and head of Premier Mobility Group of Didi Chuxing.
The project also received support from actors, actresses and sports star in China, Michelle Yeoh, Zhou Xun, Ma Sichun, Leo Ku, William Chan and Ning Zetao, who call for different groups in the society to create a convenient and equal traffic environment for all.
“Looking forward UNDP will continue its support in safeguarding the rights of people with disabilities in China and promoting access to transportation, so as to build a more equal and inclusive society,” Patrick added.
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BOZEMAN: The Western Transportation Institute (WTI) at Montana State University and Moscow State University for Transport Engineering (MIIT) in Russia have completed a unique, year-long collaboration designed to make transportation in rural communities more accessible to people with disabilities.
In both countries, rural transit agencies struggle to meet accessibility requirements because of limited funding and large service areas, according to WTI program manager Susan Gallagher, the project’s principal investigator.
“This project offered an opportunity to develop solutions from a cross-cultural perspective,” Gallagher said.
The project has its origins in a chance meeting between MIIT professor Irina Karapetyants and Paul Foster, director of the Office of International Studies and Outreach at MSU Billings, who was visiting Russia in 2013 as part of a U.S. State Department program to foster educational collaboration between the two countries. After Karapetyants expressed interest in WTI’s work, Foster connected the two institutions.
At that time, WTI and MIIT were in the process of stepping up their roles in addressing regional transportation workforce needs. In 2014, the Federal Highway Administration selected WTI to lead the new West Region Transportation Workforce Center, created to help develop a well-trained transportation workforce across 10 Western states. Meanwhile, as Russia prepared to host the 2014 Winter Paralympics, Russia’s Ministry of Transport established a special Training Resource Center for Accessible Transportation at MIIT, with similar training goals.
“Both parties recognized that we have a lot in common, in terms of serving large, low-population areas,” and that both would benefit from sharing research findings and other resources, Gallagher said.
After securing a grant from the Eurasia Foundation in 2015 that allowed WTI and MIIT to discuss mutual goals, the partners decided to focus on increasing accessibility to people with disabilities in rural and small urban communities, according to Gallagher.
“A primary focus of the project was on producing well-trained staff capable of providing quality assistance to passengers with disabilities,” Gallagher said.
After WTI researchers collected information about different accessibility training programs, it shared the information with MIIT, as well as with transit providers in the U.S., both on the West Region Transportation Workforce Center website and through a series of webinars. During the project, the West Region Transportation Workforce Center added information about roughly 170 transit training programs to its online searchable database, and added links to over 50 relevant research papers and other resources to its website.
The researchers also compared accessibility education programs and data from surveys of transit providers in their respective countries to identify barriers and successes to providing accessible transportation services. The results led WTI researchers to identify ways that they could improve regional training programs, according to Gallagher.
“The success of the project partnership exceeded expectations,” she said. “The team is eager to identify opportunities to continue these initial efforts.”
The project was jointly sponsored by the Eurasia Foundation’s University Partnership Program and by the Small Urban and Rural Livability Center, a University Transportation Center supported by the U.S. Department of Transportation and led by WTI. The project team included transit training experts from Easterseals Project Action Consulting. The project is one of 20 international global initiatives with which WTI has been involved.