Conference discusses autonomous vehicle accessibility

A conference in Baltimore last week saw the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Auto Alliance) host a diverse group of attendees to discuss the accessibility of autonomous vehicles for the disabled.

The conference, titled ‘The Promise: Autonomous Vehicles and the Disability Community’, was attended by representatives from government, the automotive industry and advocates for the disabled, who discussed the advances, challenges, and path forward for autonomous vehicle development.

“Historically, accessibility has been a costly post-purchase vehicle modification for most people with disabilities, and nonexistent for the blind,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. 

“Discussion between industry and disabled consumers has already had a positive impact on the Senate’s AV START legislation, and our continued work together will pave the way for autonomous vehicles to become tools that will truly enhance independence and opportunity for the blind and other disabled travelers,” added Riccobono.

“Automakers have been developing self-driving technologies for years,” said Auto Alliance President and CEO Mitch Bainwol.

“We are motivated by the tremendous potential for enhanced safety for everyone and the opportunity to provide greater mobility freedom to people with disabilities and the elderly.”

The two organisations are urging lawmakers and original equipment manufacturers to consider the needs of the disabled as they develop laws, regulations and technology for autonomous vehicles.

Conference speakers included representatives from the National Association of the Deaf, Paralyzed Veterans of America, American Association of People with Disabilities, United Spinal Association, American Council of the Blind and National Down Syndrome Society, as well as the automotive industry, government and other stakeholders.