Safety Perceptions of Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) by the Blind and Visually Impaired (BVI)

Estimates by the American Foundation for the Blind (ACB) suggest that that there are 10 million blind or visually impaired individuals in the United States (U.S.). Of these, 1.3 million are considered legally blind. (1) Because many among the blind and visually impaired (BVI) cannot drive, access to safe and reliable transportation can be a significant challenge with additional consequences for mobility, quality of life and access to housing and employment. Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) have emerged as a new mode of travel that has the potential to increase access to transportation for BVI individuals. In 2014, the ACB produced a white paper on TNCs to investigate “how the new products work and the extent to which they meet the needs of ACB’s members.” (2) Additionally, BVI bloggers have lauded the services offered by TNCs, referring to them as “an excellent alternative to public transportation, cabs, hiring personal drivers, and asking for rides from friends.” (3) However, the opportunities and challenges for TNC use by BVI individuals has not been widely studied. The goal of this research is to use both qualitative and quantitative methods to identify how the BVI community perceives the safety of TNCs relative to other travel modes, and how the BVI community utilizes TNCs for safe mobility. The safety of BVI travelers is difficult to quantify using traditional traffic safety metrics such as crash rates, because they represent a small segment of the total population. There is little data available to determine their relative crash risks across travel modes. Safety for travelers with disabilities on traditional transit and paratransit services has been shown to strongly correlate with familiarity between passengers and their travel providers (4), which suggests a potential for TNCs to serve the unique needs of BVI travelers. On the other hand, TNC providers are not trained (as traditional paratransit providers would be) to handle the special needs of passengers with disabilities, which can negatively affect safety. (3) The team will design and implement a web survey, which will capture data from the BVI community. The research design will be informed by a strong literature review that focuses not only on BVI safety mobility issues, but also on to what extent TNCs have extended their service model to this community. Throughout the design process, the research team will rely on a BVI expert panel to help ensure that the survey instrument is consistent with not only the project goals, but also in line with the special needs of the community under study. Prior to implementation, the web survey will be qualitatively tested in a focus group in which members of the BVI community will be asked to review and provide comment on the survey. Partnerships with BVI organizations such as the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) will enable the research team to reach out to the members of these organizations as survey participants. The final project report will not only contain the summarized results of the quantitative survey, but will also include perspectives from TNC representatives gleaned via a series of structured interviews. As a means to address to a wider audience, the findings will be summarized in a podcast form for those who prefer this form of media. Furthermore, an educational packet will be generated for use in academic setting, specifically for educators hoping to help inform students on aspects of research design focused on mobility safety issues among at risk communities.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $173099
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Managing Organizations:

    Safety through Disruption University Transportation Center

    Virginia Tech Transportation Institute
    Blacksburg, VA  United States  24060

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Performing Organizations:

    Texas A&M Transportation Institute

    Texas A&M University System
    3135 TAMU
    College Station, TX  United States  77843-3135
  • Principal Investigators:

    Simek, Chris

  • Start Date: 20170501
  • Expected Completion Date: 20180831
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • USDOT Program: University Transportation Centers Program

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01637027
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Safety through Disruption University Transportation Center
  • Contract Numbers: 69A3551747115
  • Files: UTC, RiP
  • Created Date: May 31 2017 11:58AM