University at Buffalo Researcher Receives Grants to Study Shuttle Bus Boarding Technologies for Persons with Disabilities

Published July 4, 2015

“The ultimate goal is to use data from this study to help impact future shuttle bus designs and enhance community integration and independence for people with mobility disabilities.”
James Lenker, PhD, OTL/R, ATP, Associate Professor

Dr. James Lenker, associate professor in the department of rehabilitation science at the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions, is a co-principal investigator on two grants recently awarded by the Champion Bus Company and Dallas Smith Corporation.  The study will compare the usability of two shuttle buses utilizing two different boarding systems for persons with mobility disabilities.

“The purpose of the study is to compare the boarding usability of two shuttle buses,” explains Lenker.  “A new design that is equipped with an electromechanically adjustable access ramp and a conventional shuttle bus equipped with entry steps and an electro-mechanical lift. We’ll be evaluating the new design as it is intended to reduce dwell time, provide faster and easier boarding and disembarking for passengers, and reduce stigma for mobility device users who are often required to board such vehicles using a separate entrance from that used by fellow passengers.”

The study will recruit six participant groups: manual wheelchair users; power wheelchair users; scooter users; individuals who have vision impairment; individuals who use a walking aid; and a control group of ambulatory adults without mobility impairment and who have experience using strollers.

Participants will perform a variety of activities related to boarding and disembarking on both types of shuttle buses, with the usability of both conditions assessed using observed and self-report measures including the Rapid Assessment of Product Usability and Universal Design, Difficulty Rating Scale, and Acceptability Rating Scale. All of the self-report measures were developed at the University at Buffalo by teams led by Lenker and study principal investigator Dr. Edward Steinfeld, director of the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDEA) at the University at Buffalo.

“The ultimate goal is to use data from this study to help impact future shuttle bus designs and enhance community integration and independence for people with mobility disabilities,” said Lenker.

In addition to Lenker and Steinfeld, IDEA staff members Dr. Brittany Perez, an occupational therapist, and Mr. Heamchand Subryan, a design research associate, will be assisting with the study. University at Buffalo students in occupational therapy, architecture and industrial engineering will all be assisting with data collection.