Despite federal laws mandating accessibility, city life can be difficult for people with disabilities. The rules aren’t always enforced, and come with their own problems. For example, in New York City, the Access-A-Ride paratransit service for disabled citizens requires people to go through a lengthy application process, reservations up to two days in advance, and can only promise to arrive within 30 minutes of the scheduled time.This scenario presents myriad probems, especially when it comes to scheduling.
For SVA grad Meghan Lazier’s MFA thesis project in the Design for Social Innovation department, she created an app, Alert-A-Ride, that acts as a kind of Uber for accessible rides. The app prototype allows riders to track their vehicle on a map and to set proximity-based alerts, giving them a clear idea of how far away their rides are. It will even log trip histories, making it easier to accessing frequent address.
The app itself has a yellow and black color scheme that are not only the colors of a New York taxi, but the high-contrast colors are helpful for visually impaired people.
Lazier has been working with the MTA on her idea, and says they’ve been receptive. But moving forward with a government agency can be a glacial process since money is budgeted out so far in advance. The MTA says that only 44% of Access-A-Ride users own a cell phone, numbers Lazier thinks are artificially low. Even so, she still thinks the app would be worth the effort. “That’s 61,000 people,” she told Co.Design “That’s larger than the Chicago suburb I grew up in.”
Disabled communities have made much of their progress through lawsuits that spur legislation, but legislation takes a long time to change. “Design has been totally underutilized,” in making change happen, Lazier says. “I think there’s a really big opportunity here to advocate for disabled people in a different way.”