Welcome to the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Accessible Public Transportation

 Wheelchair user using a bus ramp

Our Mission

The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Accessible Public Transportation will research and develop methods to empower consumers and service providers in the design and evaluation of accessible transportation equipment, information services, and physical environments.

What's New:

Carnegie Mellon and University at Buffalo Researchers Improving Transit and Sidewalk Access for People With Disabilities

Five-Year, $4.6 Million Federal Grant Supports Continued Accessibility Research

BY BYRON SPICE - Mon, 2013-10-28 10:15

Tiramisu application screen shot of bus informationResearchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, are collaborating on a five-year,  $4.6 million federally funded project to advance physical access and public transportation for people with disabilities by bringing together computer science technology and the principles of universal design.

The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Accessible Public Transportation has received a new grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) that extends the existing five-year grant that concludes this year. 

The center will develop ways to empower consumers, manufacturers and service providers in the design and evaluation of accessible transportation equipment, information services and physical environments. 

The center’s principal investigator is Aaron Steinfeld, an associate research professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute who works on human-robot interaction and intelligent transportation systems in the Quality of Life Technology (QoLT) Center, headquartered at Carnegie Mellon.

Steinfeld will co-direct the center with his father, Edward Steinfeld, a professor of architecture at the University at Buffalo who heads the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA). The IDeA Center improves the design of environments and products by making them more usable, safe and appealing to people with a wide range of abilities. The center is a world leader in universal design, an important component of the new RERC’s work. 

“Universal design is a human-centered approach to design and business practices focused on creating a more convenient, comfortable, healthier and safer environment for everyone,” Edward Steinfeld said. “It extends the lessons learned in design for disability to all riders, recognizing that the transportation environment presents challenges for all. It not only increases social integration for people who have physical and mental challenges but, by doing so, reduces costs by removing the burden of providing special services, facilities and products.”           

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon will use Tiramisu Transit, an app developed under the prior RERC, to understand how real-time trip information and community dialog can empower accessible travel. Buffalo researchers will continue design research to make boarding and disembarking buses faster, safer and more accessible.

Another project will leverage existing technologies supported by the Traffic21 program at Carnegie Mellon to develop software systems to help riders during multi-modal trips. Collaborations with industry also are planned, continuing the team’s prior work on vehicle designs with the Gillig Bus Corporation and starting a new effort with the Dallas Smith Corporation. The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority in Buffalo and the Port Authority of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh continue to assist the researchers as they develop new technologies and concepts.

“As with our first RERC grant, we think it is critical to include input from transit users in all of our projects,” said Carnegie Mellon’s Aaron Steinfeld. “Transit is a community that includes riders, service providers and industry. Each has an important voice and valuable perspectives.”

Tiramisu Receives FCC Award for Advancement in Accessibility

Tiramisu team receiving FCC awardEight projects representing significant innovation in communications technology benefitting people with disabilities received the FCC’s Chairman’s Awards for Advancement in Accessibility. Awards were presented for the development of mainstream or assistive technologies, the development of standards, and the implementation of best practices that foster accessibility. The awards focused on six categories: Consumer Empowerment Information; Mobile Applications; Civic Participation Solutions; Education: College or University; Video Programming; and Geo-Location Solutions. In addition to the winners in these categories, two honorable mentions were also recognized.

The Chairman’s 2012 AAA Winners:

  • Consumer Empowerment Information -- Project StAR: Accessible Radio 2012/The Narrator
  • Mobile Applications -- WGBH National Center for Accessible Media: “Media Access Mobile”
  • Civic Participation Solutions -- Prime III: A Universally Designed Voting Machine
  • Education: College or University -- Project: Possibilities SS12: Code for a Cause
  • Geo-Location Services -- Tiramisu Transit
  • Video Programming -- Accessible Media Inc. (AMI)

The Chairman’s 2012 AAA Honorable Mentions:

  • Civic Participation -- Google+ Hangouts
  • Mobile Applications -- Virtual Braille Keyboard

Awards for Tiramisu

Tiraimsu placed second in the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITSA) Best New Innovative Products, Services, or Applications category of their 2011 Best of ITS Awards. A paper by the team also received the 2011 Best Paper Award from the Public Transportation Group of the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies. Learn more about the ITSA award >>

Tiramisu a Finalist for ITSA Award

The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITSA) has selected Tiramisu as a finalist for the Best New Innovative Products, Services, or Applications category of their 2011 Best of ITS Awards. Learn more about ITSA Award finalist >>

Tiramisu Released to the Public

The team has released Tiramisu, a transit rider information system to the general public. The smartphone app lets riders share vehicle location and fullness, so other riders can see when their bus is coming and whether they will be able to get on. The software also allows riders to report problems, kudos, and suggestions about their experiences. The app, which initially only works in Pittsburgh, is free in the iPhone App Store and will be available for Android soon.  Learn more about the Tiramisu Release >>

Usability Study on Public Transit Buses

The Usability Study on Public Transit Buses investigated the user requirements for patrons of public transit buses. The study investigated getting on and off public buses, circulating inside of buses, understanding the communication and information systems of public buses, as well as issues concerning rider safety. Learn more the Study on Public Transit Buses >>

GeoAccess Challenge Report:

The GeoAccess Challenge Team, which includes the RERC-APT, has released a report, Data-Enabled Travel: How Geo-Data Can Support Inclusive Transportation, Tourism, and Navigation through Communities, in response to a 90-day challenge launched by the White House, FCC, and Department of Commerce. This report focuses on how can transportation data and other geo-data be used to increase accessible travel by people with disabilities. It explains what the team has learned about the potential of geo-data for accessible travel. It also offers suggestions to interested stakeholders about next steps toward the realization of this potential.

 Learn more about GeoAccess Challenge >>