Caspi to lead collaborative $11.45M Transportation Data Equity Initiative

Tools like Google Directions and OneBusAway give up-to-date travel and transit information to make regional transit easier for most. But mobility applications focus on efficiency and shortest paths, leaving out information critical to people with disabilities, older adults, and anybody needing more support.

The Taskar Center for Accessible Technology, led by CREATE Associate Director for Translation Anat Caspi, and the UW’s Washington State Transportation Center will work with Microsoft, Google, the Washington Department of Transportation and other public and private partners to develop transit mobility technology as part of the Transportation Data Equity Initiative.

A bright pink placard with a wheelchair user icon and the words Step Free Route planted in bright green grass

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the project $11.45 million in January as part of a program focused on promoting independent mobility for all.

Anat Caspi, CREATE Director for Translation and Affiliate Assistant Professor, Electrical & Computer Engineering

“Transportation and mobility play key roles in the struggle for civil rights and equal opportunity. Affordable and reliable transportation allows people access to important opportunities in education, employment, health care, housing and community life,” said project lead Anat Caspi.

“Our goal is to translate the UW’s accessible technology research and data science products into real-world use, building technology foundations for good and avoiding repetition of exclusion patterns of the past or creation of new travel barriers to individuals.”

This article was excerpted from the UW News. Read the full article.

With AI and other tech, Anat Caspi focuses on helping people with disabilities

The Seattle Times | August 4, 2019

In her role as the director of the University of Washington’s Taskar Center for Accessible Technology, Caspi creates technology focused on people with disabilities such as motor limitations, in many instances applying artificial intelligence (AI).

“It’s really about treating people as humans with different needs and preferences,” she said as a cyclist passing by rang a bell.

She sees the mapping of pedestrian infrastructure — walkways, sidewalks, overpasses, underpasses and trails — as a necessary lifeline for people with disabilities. Everyone approaches an environment with different levels of attentiveness and perceptual and motor abilities. 

So Caspi and her Taskar team created a framework to log the features of sidewalk infrastructure in a project called OpenSidewalks, which is now being used by King County’s paratransit service to help people with disabilities navigate any trip. She also helped create AccessMap, an AI-powered online travel planner that identifies surfaces, slopes and obstacles to help users choose the best route for them.

Read full Seattle Times article.

Anat Caspi, Director for Translation

I am interested in exploring ways in which collaborative commons and cooperation can challenge and transform the current economics of assistive technology and incentivize rapid development and deployment of ethically built accessible technologies. My research focuses on engineering machine intelligent solutions for customizable real-time, responsive technologies in the context of work, play and urban street environments.


Affiliate Assistant Professor, Electrical & Computer Engineering

Director and co-founder, Taskar Center for Accessible Technology

Research highlights

Equity in Transportation Data

All travelers want directions they can trust, but most maps and automated pedestrian routers do not have the data travelers with accessibility requirements need. When we built AccessMap, a personalized, automated pedestrian routing application that takes mobility limitations into consideration, it was clear that municipalities and agencies have not been effective in collecting and maintaining detailed pedestrian-centric map information. Users of AccessMap, currently served in Seattle, Bellingham, and Mt. Vernon, have made it clear with over 35,000 routing requests that people of all abilities require better mobility apps that provide customized information about the pedestrian environment. To scale our efforts, we created the OpenSidewalks data standard along with understandable tools for gathering sidewalk network data, focusing on (1) tools for individual citizen-scientist data entry (2) mass import tools for municipal datasets, and (3) automated computer vision pipelines to map geo-located videos. Our standard and methods for effective data exchange and sharing were recently adopted by King County Metro, Sound Transit, and MVTransit Inc, the largest paratransit operator company with worldwide presence.

The Taskar Center for Accessible Technology (TCAT)

An initiative co-founded by Anat Caspi at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering to develop, translate and deploy open source, accessible technologies, with a focus on benefiting individuals with motor limitations or speech impairments. TCAT’s translation efforts promote collaborative use of data commons and shared community resources with the recognition that bringing novel accessible technologies to users requires challenging the traditional technology-transfer path. With our partners, we launched the first assistive technology and adapted toy lending library in the Pacific Northwest, serving physical technologies and online resources for others to replicate. Over the past 5 years, TCAT has engaged more than 200 undergraduate and 50 graduate design and engineering students in participatory design and inclusive design practices with our communities of practice, bringing together people of diverse abilities, backgrounds and skill sets towards a common goal of designing for the fullness of human abilities and experiences

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