Thank you, Nora. We appreciate your great questions.
The idea of LookingBus was inspired by a request made by a mutual friend who works with people who are visually impaired. The idea began in Ann Arbor, MI where we had the opportunity to talk with a group of people who are blind. Our passion for developing technological solutions to have a social impact motivated us to solve this problem. The people we talked with raised frustration for the difficulties they face with riding public transportation, which triggered us to work toward developing the LookingBus solution. The current solution has been advanced over time after spending numerous hours talking with people with visual impairments and their families, as well as with public transportation key stakeholders including drivers, dispatch operators, and orientation and mobility personal.
About the outreach activities, everyone in the community is invited to the outreach activities and to be active in the social media groups. We encourage members of the community who do not have disabilities to participate as well so they will have a better understanding of the environment present to riders with disabilities. There will be multiple sessions to accommodate time conflicts for as many people as possible, and there will be on-going support through social media.
And about the local community - definitely yes, we plan to collaborate closely with local disability groups, promote the usage through local orientation mobility/trainers, and identify champion users from the community of riders with disabilities and ambassadors from the community (e.g., local students) to help with running the activities, such as workshops and “coffee and cups” user meetings.
Great Questions, Boratha. We appreciate your time and interest in LookingBus. I will answer the questions one by one. 1. Yes, a tactile sign will be attached to the bus-stop to inform riders of the bus-stop number and that the bus-stop is supported by the LookingBus service. The information will be raised in plain and Braille text to assist riders in their navigation on public transportation. While this task seems simple, it does require a lot of thought and input from riders with visual impairments. An initial discussion regarding this feature has already begun during focus groups with visually impaired people. The input received is very valuable but still mixed and we will be to continue the discussion as part of this City:One pilot. Discussions covered the ideal amount of the information to include on the signs so it would not be overwhelming but still able to provide the important information, as well as the ideal physical placement. Discussions also focused on the construction material, with a debate between plastic, which is friendlier to touch in case of very cold/hot weather, or an aluminum sign that is less friendly to touch but easier to read. Participants were very appreciative of the effort to provide that information and mentioned that while there is a significant progress in displaying tactile information in indoor environments such as office numbers in public offices, the outdoor environment is still not widely addressed. 2. The drivers receive the pickup/drop off alerts on their tablet, which serves as a Driver Alerting Unit (DAU). The driver app User Interface is designed to use without creating distractions for driving and rider safety and the driver app does not require any action from the drivers while they are operating the vehicle. Visual indicators provide clear, color-coded alerts to drivers to eliminate confusion and provide necessary details about the rider saved in their profile, including a nickname and type of disability. 3. Yes, we already in discussions with ride-share service providers about marking pickup/drop off locations with our sensors.