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Putting a Focus on Inclusive Mobility for All

How we’re putting a focus on inclusive mobility with the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind

At Jacobs, we know that if we are inclusive, we’re more connected, and if we are diverse, we’re more creative. We don’t just live our values internally, we live inclusion in the communities where we live, work, educate and play. We’re doing just that by  leveraging autonomous vehicles to unlock mobility for all alongside the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB).

Jacobs recently completed a study with the MCB to understand the projected impact that autonomous vehicles (AV) could have on vocational rehabilitation (VR) outcomes.

The MCB is the point of entry for VR and social rehabilitation (SR) services for residents of the Commonwealth who are declared legally blind. Their services help individuals work toward independence and full community participation. 

“We’re working with the Commission to understand how new transportation technologies, such as AVs, might impact job opportunities for the visually impaired,” explains Jacobs People & Places Solutions Senior Systems Engineer Catherine Burns. “Our study included the types of technologies and tools that the blind use to help them get through their day, the challenges a blind person has with transportation systems, as well as evaluating demographic data on the blind in Massachusetts.”

The final report lays out recommendations for next-generation vehicles to better provide mobility for all, including investigating how AVs could possibly affect the employment outcomes of blind people. Transportation Management Associations (TMAs) in some communities and Transportation Networking Companies (TNCs) such as Lyft and Uber have changed the transportation landscape. Still, limited coverage areas, driver turnover rates, discrimination, quieter electric vehicles, vehicle identification, and lack of understanding of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) laws and etiquette have caused new challenges for blind persons. The existing options and AV development are at a critical time for collaboration and support between the private sector and public agencies.

“Our goal is to provide information to connect our consumers to employment opportunities and to explore creative ideas to assist with their independence. Through data analysis, research and collaboration with partners, we look for best practices and solutions to barriers,” says MCB Regional Director Nathan Skrocki. “We are always looking for partners like Jacobs Engineering to help us achieve our mission as an agency and to be on the forefront of innovation opportunities like autonomous vehicles.“

Jacobs’ connected, automated and electric vehicles and intelligent transportation systems community of practice has more than 300 members worldwide who collaborate on innovative methodologies and solutions. Through these practices, we help agencies plan and design for the opportunities that new technologies such as AVs will bring.  Hear more from MCB and Catherine Burns on evolving AV technology and how it could impact blind and visually impaired persons in this episode of the Career Views podcast.

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