$4.7 Million Disability Transportation Research Grant Awarded to UB and Carnegie Mellon

Release Date: December 1, 2008


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Researchers in the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning will partner with colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University on a $4.7 million, five-year effort to advance public transportation for people with disabilities.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) was awarded to father and son researchers, Edward Steinfeld, Arch.D., an internationally recognized pioneer in the field of universal design at UB, and his son Aaron Steinfeld, Ph.D., a systems scientist in Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute.

The grant will fund a new Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Accessible Public Transportation (RERC/APT) at UB and Carnegie Mellon, and establish a formal partnership between the UB Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDEA Center), an internationally acknowledged center for excellence in universal design directed by Edward Steinfeld, and the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute, an internationally regarded center for excellence in robotics.

For more information on the new RERC on Accessible Public Transportation, go to http://www.rercapt.org.

Employing elements of computer science technology and principles of universal design, the RERC/APT 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.

The Steinfelds are each co-directors of the RERC/APT. Aaron Steinfeld will be the principal investigator.

Edward Steinfeld, a UB professor of architecture, and his research team in the UB IDEA Center research and design environments and products to make them more usable, safe and appealing to people with a wide range of abilities. The center provides resources and technical expertise in architecture, product design, facilities management and the social and behavioral sciences.

Aaron Steinfeld does research and development on human-robot interaction, ergonomics, rehabilitation, universal design and intelligent transportation systems in the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute's Quality of Life Technology Engineering Research Center.

According to Edward Steinfeld the RERC/APT will conduct research that is extremely timely and needed by the transportation industry and business partners, including manufacturers and consumer-advocacy organizations. "We will help to implement research findings and disseminate information that directly improves transportation services, vehicles and facilities," he says.

One collaborating organization is the United Spinal Association, which focuses on improving the quality of life of Americans with spinal cord injuries and disorders. The association will focus on developing improved transportation regulations and standards.

Two other partners, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) in Buffalo and Port Authority of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, will assist the researchers as they develop new technologies and concepts.

A fourth partner is the California-based Gillig Corp., the nation's largest manufacturer of heavy-duty mass transit buses. Gillig will, at its own expense, incorporate the access and interior design modifications developed by the RERC/APT into a new prototype NFTA bus that will be ready for commercialization.

As part of its project, the team will create a public Web site where riders can report on their experiences and collaborate with transit providers on ways to improve the transportation system. The team also will use advances in machine learning to develop software that can assist riders in reaching their destinations.

Edward Steinfeld points out that the grant adds to UB's portfolio of centers sponsored by the National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research. The others are the RERC on Universal Design in the Built Environment; the UB Center for International Rehabilitation Research Information and Exchange (CIRRIE), and the UB Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project (DRRP) on Knowledge Translation for Technology Transfer.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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