November 2020 Meeting – The Promise of Autonomous Vehicles

for the November 12 meeting.

Join us as ITKAN closes out the year by looking to the future with an exploration of the promise of Autonomous Vehicles! We’ve got two great speakers for the evening. 

Sheryl Gross-Glaser was the founding director of the National Center for Applied Transit Technology (N-CATT) and has expertise in the development of AV and its application to urban environments and public transit systems. Carol Tyson is the Government Affairs Liaison for the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) and former Director for Disability Policy with United Spinal Association. She is a respected voice nationally for equity and accessibility across all modes of developing transportation including AV. 

We’ll explore the following lanes in AV development, accessibility, and application…

  • Where we are with AVs with legislation, pilots, and operations.
  • What do we mean by accessibility for AVs? Differentiating the possible – but unlikely – from the impossible.
  • The work within the disability community and with OEMs, tech companies, government agencies and others to advocate for accessible AVs. 

Join us for this stimulating conversation on the future of transportation!

Thu, November 12, 2020
5:00 PM – 7:00 PM CDT


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Autonomous Vehicles and Universal Design

Autonomous Vehicles Should Benefit People with Disabilities, But Progress Remains Slow

An MIT report estimates truly autonomous vehicles might not hit the streets for a decade. And when they do, it’s difficult to say whether they will fully accommodate all riders, including those with disabilities. Driverless car technology promises to remove barriers to personal transportation, but few self-driving operators have made headway on solutions for customers with mobility, vision, and hearing impairments, including seniors and those with chronic health conditions.

Some companies are further along than others. Alphabet’s Waymo is engaged with collaborators — including the Foundation for Senior Living in Phoenix and the Foundation for Blind Children — in an effort to ensure its vehicles remain accessible. Cruise has similarly partnered with the National Federation of the Blind, the American Council of the Blind,  Lighthouse for the Blind, and local communities to conduct usability studies and solicit feedback. Still, experts say there’s more to be done as the autonomous vehicle horizon extends well into the future.

“Autonomous vehicles hold incredible promise for people with disabilities to enjoy the enormous freedom that most adults have to live spontaneously and to be independent travelers,” Sheryl Gross-Glaser, director of the nonprofit Community Transportation Association of America, told VentureBeat. “But just as we need to enable someone with a walker or wheelchair to enter and exit a vehicle, we need redundant technologies that serve people with auditory or visual impairments and technologies and designs that assist people with cognitive disabilities. Those exist, and they should be used in designing autonomous vehicles so that all autonomous vehicles will be accessible.”

Left out

An estimated 25.5 million people in the U.S. have disabilities that make traveling outside the home difficult, and they make fewer trips on average than those without disabilities, regardless of age, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2017 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS). Seven out of 10 people surveyed in the NHTS said they reduce day-to-day travel because of their disabilities, and one-third of people who made zero trips said they stayed home because they’re severely disabled or housebound.

“For people like older adults, facing the prospect of losing the ability to drive due to aging-related illness is taking away freedom and hampering their independence. Some of the toughest conversations that I’ve seen families have is when they need to confront a parent or spouse about taking their keys away,” Foundation for Senior Living president Tom Egan told VentureBeat. “For many people who have dementia, they need door-to-door service, not a curb-to-curb service, and hence will need a caregiver or someone to get them into their home or destination without them becoming confused and wandering off.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, people with disabilities are more likely to encounter obstacles with nearly every mode of transportation. In a 2003 survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, nearly 20% reported that their disability makes transportation difficult to use, with limited public transportation being the most frequent complaint.

Waymo One

Research has linked the resulting isolation to health problems and even early death. A 2014 survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 44% of those with disabilities experienced depression at least once in their lives, compared with 11% without a disability. “While depression is often a psychological disability in and of itself, it is important to think of it as a comorbidity,” the coauthors of a study from the Ruderman Family Foundation and Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) wrote. “People with a significant functional impairment may live with depression due to isolation as a direct result of a lack of mobility options.”

NHTS highlights accessibility features in private vehicles, including hand controls, wheelchair lifts, rear-view video, and blind spot detection. But in the same breath, the report notes that these technologies increase the cost of vehicles, potentially putting them beyond the reach of the 51.4% of people age 18 to 64 with “travel-limiting” disabilities in households with annual incomes under $25,000.

That’s assuming private autonomous car ownership is eventually popularized, which seems unlikely. Guidehouse Insights principal analyst Sam Abuelsamid estimated in an interview with the New York Times that self-driving technology would add $5,000 to $20,000 to a vehicle’s price. For that reason, autonomous ride-hailing fleets like Waymo One appear to be the prevailing near-term model. But despite their advantages from the perspective of economies of scale, Gross-Glaser sees little evidence that self-driving companies are treating accessibility as a priority.

“In transit, due to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), accessibility has become incorporated into vehicle design … But with little in the way of exceptions, I have not seen any commitments, promises, designs, or proposed legislation or regulations that would guarantee significant progress in autonomous vehicle accessibility,” Gross-Glaser said.

However, she points out that there has been progress in recent years.

Accessibility overtures

In 2018, Renault showcased the EZ-GO, an electric driverless ride-share vehicle with an oversized entry port that lifts up to reveal an extendable ramp for wheelchair access. And in May 2019, Volkswagon unveiled its Inclusive Mobility Initiative (IMI), through which the automaker is working directly with outside groups like the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, the National Federation for the Blind, and the National Association of the Deaf to ensure the company’s vehicles cater to people with disabilities. IMI’s recommendations have already informed the design of a concept autonomous van — the VW’s Sedric — with tall roofs and doors designed to accommodate wheelchairs.

Self-driving shuttle operators have made accessibility inroads, too, courtesy of collaborations with organizations like IBM and the CTA Foundation. In 2018, Local Motors launched a shuttle that can direct visually impaired passengers to empty seats using machine vision to identify open spots and audio cues for direction. Meanwhile, May Mobility developed a wheelchair-accessible prototype version of its autonomous vehicle with a mechanism for securing a passenger’s wheelchair during the course of a trip.

VW Sedric

“Autonomous vehicle shuttle companies have been, at least, adhering to the threshold for accessibility of ADA regulation. This is not perfect, but transit has shown itself willing to serve and advocate for people and communities who are transportation-vulnerable,” Gross-Glaser said.

Waymo has stopped short of some of the accessibility steps its rivals have taken. But the company designed the apps its customers use to hail rides with support for screen readers like TalkBack on Android and VoiceOver on iOS. Those apps also offer wayfinding features and ways riders can ask their vehicle to make a sound to help guide them. Within Waymo’s self-driving Chrysler Pacificas, Braille labels allow vision-impaired riders to start the ride, pull it over, and speak to an operator who can provide further assistance. And through every phase of the ride, deaf and hearing-impaired riders have access to on-screen visual information about what’s happening around the vehicle.

“We continue to learn about the unique needs of different riders, and what we learn will inform new features that will make the experience accessible to people who have historically had to rely on others to get around,” a Waymo spokesperson told VentureBeat. “This technology offers incredible promise for people with disabilities, which has been part of our mission from the beginning.”

Enduring challenges

Megan Strickfaden, an anthropologist at the University of Alberta, argues these efforts don’t go far enough. She’s the coauthor of a 2019 study that outlines steps autonomous vehicle operators must take to ensure they don’t exclude members of disabled populations, including those with low vision and hearing and with mobility challenges.

In the report, Strickfaden points out that even vehicles with wheelchair accessibility features, for example, could fall short of acceptable usability and safety baselines. Steep road inclines could destabilize wheelchair ramps, and bumps in the road might cause a wheelchair to tip or fall. Injuries and fatalities have resulted from improperly restrained wheelchairs, and travelers with vision and other impairments have much lower chances of evacuating vehicles during emergencies.

Strickfaden advocates for a standard, “universally designed” autonomous vehicle with a side entry ramp and user interfaces that can accommodate riders regardless of their physical abilities and skill levels. (In this context, “universally designed” refers to the paradigm envisioned by Ron Mace at North Carolina State University’s Center for Universal Design in which products are designed to be usable by all people without adaptation.) Strickfaden also recommends specific assistive technologies for eye tracking, gesture recognition, and voice control that could afford those with tactile, mobility, and hearing impairments a semblance of control without the need to make physical contact.

Beyond vehicle considerations, Strickfaden says robo-taxi operators should consider ways to address practical challenges around pickup and dropoff for those with disabilities. Some customers will need assistants to help load and unload groceries and other items, she notes, and vehicles should be preprogrammed to provide ample time to load and unload essential equipment, like walkers, service animals, and wheelchairs.

GM Cruise Origin

Above: The GM Cruise Origin, a concept car with room to accommodate a wheelchair.

Image Credit: Khari Johnson / VentureBeat

“Due to the freedom from driving that AVs allow for all of us, there is a unique opportunity in history to vastly improve the lives of millions of people with disabilities,” Gross-Glaser said. “I hope that everyone can support that because all of us will grow old, if we are fortunate to live long lives, and many of us will need, either permanently or temporarily, the assistance that accessibility affords.”

If autonomous cars were to be designed with inclusivity in mind, experts say the societal benefits could be enormous. Ruderman found that mitigating transportation obstacles would enable employment opportunities for 2 million people with disabilities while saving $19 billion annually from missed medical appointments. (Approximately 4.3 million people with a disability face significant transportation barriers when attempting to travel to their medical appointments, according to a National Academies of Sciences model updated by Ruderman and SAFE.) In something of a case in point, Detroit Medical Center Heart Hospital this month began offering self-driving shuttle service from Navya to two local Detroit senior living communities.

Another potential impact of inclusive transportation might be increased civic participation. A 2013 study by the Research Alliance for Accessible Voting suggest 3 million more people would have voted in the 2012 U.S. elections had those with disabilities voted at the same rate as those without.

“When autonomous vehicles are widely available, it is a game changer for a senior population and adults with special needs. Being able to request a ride in a self-driving car allows that senior to maintain their independence,” Egan said. “They are in control of requesting a ride and getting themselves to their destination. I believe this will make the decision to give up one’s own car an easier conversation for families around the country.”


Source: Autonomous vehicles should benefit those with disabilities, but progress remains slow | VentureBeat

August 2020 Meeting: A Human-Centric Economy of Things

Register for the August 13 meeting.

Join us for a virtual ITKAN meetup on Thursday evening, August 13. Alexander Renz, Managing Partner at New Mobility Consulting, will discuss some of his current work to create a “Human-Centric Economy of Things” that leverages the Internet of Things and Distributed Ledger Technologies to put humans back in control, rather than make them subject to manipulation and misinformation. His vision is to harness the creativity and collective intelligence of all global citizens to achieve the world’s sustainable development goals.

Thu, August 13, 2020
5:00 PM – 7:00 PM CDT


A Human-Centric Economy of Things

The convergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) with Distributed ledger Technologies will create a Machine-to-Machine Economy in which devices will not only generate but share trusted data across symbiotic networks. Machines will become their own economic agents as part of frictionless marketplaces of goods and services that can operate without middlemen and orchestrate themselves around humans. Alex will explore why a Human-Centric Economy of Things represents a desirable future in view of data as the new oil, circular economies and sustainability goals.

Alexander Renz is passionate about leveraging exponential technologies to create a future of mobility and transportation that is sustainable and accessible for thriving communities, societies and economies.

Alex is a systems-of-systems thinker and has worked on the convergence of

mobility and transportation with energy, telecommunications and our broader smart city infrastructures. Ever since his work with Stuart Kauffman, the god-father of complexity science and former professor at the Santa Fe Institute, Alex has been fascinated with self-organizing, adaptive systems and agent-based models to understand complex system behavior. He also has been part of the Internet of Things (IoT) movement since its initial inception at the MIT Auto-ID Center in 2000. He believes in the power of decentralization and swarm intelligence.

He is a big proponent of self-sovereign identities and self-sovereign data give humans and machines control over digital identities and data. He is exploring data trusts and business models around symbiotic data sharing and data marketplaces. He is working on making machines their own economic agents that engage in data exchange and economic activity on behalf of their human masters. This includes frictionless, decentralized marketplaces for goods and services that put machines and humans back in control.

Alex believes that we can only solve the challenges ahead of us if we create a global movement inspired by desirable futures. His vision is to harness the creativity and collective intelligence of all global citizens to achieve the world’s sustainable development goals.

Some Past Speaking Engagements:

DLD logo

Handelsblatt | Auto Gipfel 2018 | @Volkswagen
Autonomy logo
Darwin's Circle logo
webit logo
TWIN logo

Equal Access Administrators Dust Off their Gray Matter with Virtual Brain Training Session!

John Kennedy was a senior executive in process and project management when, in 2007, his brother David, a USMC Master Sergeant deployed in Afghanistan inquired whether John might apply his process efficiency background to reducing injuries and deaths from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that Marines and all deployed forces were facing.

John applied his knowledge in creating process efficiencies for well-known companies like Abbott, Aon and Motorola to this life-changing charge from his brother. The premise was to use the developing science of neuroplasticity – the brain’s capacity at any point in your life to rewire its connections and develop new synapses across which information, memories, and knowledge can travel – coupled with a cognitive training regimen to provide Marines with life-saving insights and immediate decision-making skills in the combat environment.

From that process came Combat Brain Training. He focused on 5 critical executive function processes; anticipation, pattern recognition, working memory, focus and attention, and processing speed.

A unique element of John’s approach to brain training is that it’s paper based, although he trains most of his clients in a remote manner – even prior to the virus. There are several reasons for the paper-based approach. Among them are the capacity to train your peripheral vision to “anticipate” characters or sequences on paper vs. in the limited landscape of a screen and giving ourselves a break from screen fatigue.

Colleague Brian Chorba and I organized an introductory session for our administrators of Equal Access – a digital marketplace which SPR hosts to support the professional networking, training, and career development of students and candidates with disabilities across all industries, and our parent organization support staff from Yolobe. Yolobe is an 1871 start-up whose founder David Douglas has been a consultant for SPR for the past several years.

John invited us to a Zoom meeting, and you can tell by the photo that everyone enjoyed the session! Brian and I had both experienced Combat Brain Training at an ITKAN meeting in 2017, but I think we both enjoyed the refresher training. I find it’s a great way to bring your team together for a fun and instructive session that you can apply moving forward in your career, whether casually or in greater depth and with deeper commitment.

Feel free to reach out to me to be connected with John for a fun and effective manner to leverage our brain’s ability to rewire itself…or just go to

CANCELED: March 2020 Meeting: Data Design and Mobility with Clever Franke

We are cancelling ITKAN meeting this week related to the uncertain and developing COVID19 issue along with our members who are likely more vulnerable in some cases.

Thanks and we’ll reach back once we settle on an approach to ITKAN during this window.


Join us for an exciting ITKAN meetup on Thursday evening, March 12 at the MTC Chicago. Bob Corporaal, Principal Designer / Managing Director US of Clever°Franke will discuss his thoughts on data design and why it’s relevant. He’ll also discuss the challenges and opportunities in working with data after sharing some examples. One of his interests is equity related to everyone’s mobility regardless of socio-economic, ableness, or other factors.

Clever°Franke is a a design company that uses data to create interactive products and experiences. They work with clients around the world including Google, HERE, and University of Oxford. You can check out their amazing data visualizations on their Work page. Of chief interest to us is their Chicago Mobility project in which they created a microsite about the infrastructure and mobility challenges of the Chicago metropolitan area and their influence on the everyday lives of inhabitants for the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP).

Bob Corporaal, USA Director & Principal Designer, coaches and guides Clever°Franke’s design team, maintaining their high standards of quality. He is also integral in the growth of their client base in both their Utrecht and Chicago offices. He is also an organizer for the Chicago Data Viz Community Meetup.

Thu, March 12, 2020
5:00 PM – 7:00 PM CDT

Microsoft Technology Center
200 East Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60601

February 2020 Meeting: IoT Incubator – The Connectory

Register for the February 13 meeting.

Join us for an exciting ITKAN meetup on Th. evening, February 13th at the MTC Chicago for an immersive introduction into The Connectory, an IoT incubator collaboration sponsored by Bosch and 1871! An executive from Bosch will present on this unique space and initiative that’s the first in the Midwest to focus on exploring and developing IoT to address some of our most pressing challenges.

The Connectory isn’t just another co-working tech space, but a collaboration and networking environment for smart and engaged entrepreneurs to harness the power of an increasingly data connected world. We’ll also be introduced to the Advanced Mobility Initiative which represents the future of urban mobility!

This is the first meetup introducing our members and friends to the many unique tech incubator and creative spaces in Chicago. Future meetings will explore spaces like UI Labs, TechNexus, Blue Lacuna, 1871 and others…join us!

Thu, February 13, 2020
5:00 PM – 7:00 PM CDT

Microsoft Technology Center
200 East Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60601

ITKAN Advisory Team Members and the Stein brothers gather with Year Up Director, Jack Crowe, after he is honored with the Rose Stein Light From Within award.

ITKAN’s 4th Annual Business After-Hours Recap

ITKAN’s 4th Annual Business After-Hours was last Thursday (the 14th) evening at the incredibly renovated Microsoft Technology Center Chicago. For those who registered and were unable to join us, we missed you and you missed a great evening. Sorry you were unable to make it, but we’ve attached a photo of the award celebration!

Top 10 things you experienced – or missed – at ITKAN’s 4th Annual Business After-Hours! ​

  1. Drinks and food in the MTC’s spacious and elegant front lobby with great conversation, networking, and camaraderie!
  2. A spontaneous tour by Adam Hecktman of our Advisory Team and Microsoft Philanthropies!
  3. Introductory remarks by Pat Maher with video of ITKAN meetings through 2019 and soundtrack!
  4. Keynote remarks by Danielle DuMerer focused on City of Chicago tech efforts to benefit all, including PwD and Shedd’s innovative programs engaging the disability community!
  5. Presentation by Adam Hecktman of a signed copy of George RR Martin’s A Game of Thrones to Danielle!
  6. Poignant remarks by Marc Stein, brother of Rose Stein, on the significance of the Light from Within Award!
  7. Presentation of the Rose Stein Light from Within Award to Jack Crowe, Executive Director of Year Up Chicago!
  8. Jack’s impassioned remarks following the award presentation that we all have responsibility to level the playing field for opportunity for youth with disabilities…YU Chicago wants to screen them for future cohorts!
  9. Val Kendrick, Advisory Team member and mother of Gerise – long-time ITKAN member and YU cohort grad – gives very personal closing remarks on Finding our Light from Within!
  10. Gina Figliulo of SPR keeps the bar open for our first after, after-hours much to the delight of all!

There you have it…hope to see everyone throughout 2020 and for our 5th Annual After-Hours!

Adam Hecktman explaining medical scan visuals on a screen in the MTC's hospital mock-up room

December 2019 Meeting – Planning for 2020

Register for the December 12 meeting.

Join us for our annual ITKAN Year-Ahead Planning Meeting for 2020 on Thursday, December 12th from 5-7pm at the MTC Chicago. We will also get a guided tour of the newly renovated space. Get excited for new speakers/presenters and increased networking initiatives in the new year. We are planning compelling meetings! Plan to join us and offer your input to keep ITKAN fresh, insightful, and exciting in 2020.

Thu, December 12, 2019
5:00 PM – 7:00 PM CDT

Microsoft Technology Center
200 East Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60601

Photo of Danielle DuMerer

ITKAN’s Business After Hours with The Shedd Aquarium’s Danielle DuMerer

Register for the November 14 event.

Join us as we celebrate ITKAN’s corporate and civic relationships at our 4th annual ITKAN Business After-Hours on November 14th in the Envisioning Center at the MTC Chicago! Here’s a great video on the space!

Kick off the evening with a cocktail hour sponsored by SPR and network with colleagues or make new connections in the business and civic community. Danielle DuMerer, VP for Technology at the world-renowned Shedd Aquarium, and former CIO & Commissioner for City of Chicago, will provide keynote remarks!

We will be honoring Year Up Chicago Executive Director Jack Crowe and his staff with the Rose Stein Light from Within Award for their outstanding success in strengthening career opportunities in the tech space for promising young adults in Chicago and integrating the disability community within their mission.

Thu, November 14, 2019
5:30 PM – 8:00 PM CDT

Microsoft Technology Center
200 East Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60601