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Driverless cars could open the roads to people with disabilities

Oct 11, 2016

The Next Idea

Driverless cars are on the horizon. That much is clear.

We’ve heard from businesses, engineers and politicians about how autonomous vehicles could change day-to-day life for all of us.

How might driverless cars affect the lives of people with disabilities?

Cathy McAdam is an assistive technology coordinator at the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition.

"Sometimes you can use a big chunk of the day just getting somewhere by bus."

McAdam is blind, and she’s intimately familiar with the challenges that many people with disabilities face just trying to get around.

“It is challenging, and sometimes the distance makes it even more so,” McAdam says. “Bus transportation has gotten a little bit better with the Americans With Disabilities Act, but it’s still a quite a challenge, and sometimes you can use a big chunk of the day just getting somewhere by bus.”

John Lapetz, senior associate of Lapetz and Associates, tells us that the lack of reliable transportation is not only inconvenient, but can actually impede a person’s ability to contribute to society.

“[In] many job interviews, one of the first questions is, do you have reliable transportation?” Lapetz says. “And it’s a totally legitimate question. I mean, a business needs to know that the workforce can get there, but unfortunately it becomes a subtle form of discrimination.”

"Technology today has just opened all kinds of doors in so many different ways for people with disabilities."

With the rise of driverless cars, it’s possible that these barriers could disappear altogether. Listen to McAdam and Lapetz describe how autonomous vehicles could fundamentally alter the lives of many people with disabilities:

“Technology today has just opened all kinds of doors in so many different ways for people with disabilities, and this is just another avenue to bring that kind of talent forward," McAdam says.

In our full interview below, Lapetz and McAdam talk more about autonomous vehicles and how they could change the lives of people with disabilities.

 

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