Enabling Independent Mobility in People with Physical Disabilities by Advancing Human-Centered Social and Technological Research

Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA

The goal of this project is to evaluate the hypothesis that seamless and independent mobility for people with physical disabilities can be enabled in smart and connected communities. We envision an end to end mobility system that is adaptable to user needs and intent, capable of real time update to provide the user with seamless mobility information, does not require expensive retrofits to existing infrastructure, and provide interoperability across system boundaries to enable robust, network-level control to scale the entire infrastructure (user to system, system to transportation mode, transportation mode to roads, roads to buildings, buildings to user).

Health Theme Mobility Theme
  • Principal Investigators

    Carol Menassa, PhD

    Vineet Kamat, PhD

  • Other Contributors

    Chien-fei Chen, PhD, University of Tennessee Knoxville

    Clive D'Souza, PhD, University of Pittsburgh

    Patrick Carrington, PhD, Carnegie Mellon University

    Alex Gossage, Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living

Overview and Research Motivation

For people with physical disabilities (PPD) living in urban communities, independent and effective end-to-end mobility will help reduce emotional stress, fatigue, and frustration. Lack of access to effective mobility services has life-altering implications for PPD (e.g., inadequate access to education, employment or healthcare) exacerbating physical and mental stress, leads to other chronic morbidities, and imposes a significant burden on families, caregivers, the healthcare system, and society. The image to the right shows a typical end-to-end mobility scenario for PPD. These scenarios involve several connected navigation (i.e., going from bus stop to building entrance) and maneuvering (i.e., parking in desired location inside a room or in a bus) tasks. These tasks demand substantial effort and pose safety and anxiety risks for PPD who rely on wheelchairs for their mobility. For example, PPD encounter difficulties in navigation (e.g., lose one's bearings in unknown buildings; finding accessible routes and vehicles), maneuvering (e.g., sharing congested spaces with others; parking in confined spaces), negotiating obstacles, and avoiding collisions. These issues become more pronounced if there are recent changes to the environment that are not reflected in updated maps or systems (e.g., bus schedule, ongoing building renovations blocking accessible routes).

Several national surveys estimate that more than 4.3 million people in the U.S. use wheeled mobility devices to help improve their quality of life by enabling occupation, facilitating social participation and improving self-esteem. This number is expected to grow 7% annually due to aging and increases in mobility impairments. As many leading cities develop information and communication technology (ICT) master plans, there is a growing desire to incorporate smart solutions to enhance quality of life and independence of PPD, reduce their reliance on caregivers, and improve their overall integration in communities through smart adoption of technologies.

The goal of this project is to address these research gaps and evaluate the hypothesis that seamless and independent mobility for PPD can be enabled in smart and connected communities. We envision an end to end mobility (E2E) system that is adaptable to user needs and intent, capable of real time update to provide the user with seamless mobility information, does not require expensive retrofits to existing infrastructure, and provide interoperability across system boundaries to enable robust, network-level control to scale the entire infrastructure (user to system, system to transportation mode, transportation mode to roads, roads to buildings, buildings to user).

Community Partners

 

Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living (AACIL)

Veterans Administration Ann Arbor Healthcare System (VA)

City of Ann Arbor

City of Ypsilanti

Ann Arbor Area Transit Authority (AAATA)

University of Michigan (UM) Logistics, Transportation & Parking

Michigan Institute for Computational Discovery and Engineering (MICDE)

UM School of Nursing

Hire MI Vet (HV)

Funding Source

NSF Smart & Connected Communities (S&CC) Program

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