Disability and Doing the Right Thing

Recode has a short article on the testimony of disability advocates at the recent NHTSA hearing in Silicon Valley.

The article raises two important points.

First, incorporating accessibility into the design of autonomous vehicles is the right thing to do, and will save people a lot of heartache in the long run.

Susan Henderson of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund argued, “For example, equal access to the internet for people who are blind and deaf and have other disabilities was not considered by web developers at first, and many people with disabilities experienced unnecessary obstacles to information — and still do.”

The second interesting point is that disability advocates are a natural constituency for relaxing autonomous vehicle regulation.

“NHTSA’s model state policies for [autonomous vehicle] operating or licensing users must preclude discrimination on the basis of disability by states or any government entity.”

That quote may be a little hard to decipher out of context, but what Henderson is saying there is that regulations — like those proposed by the California DMV — that mandate a sighted driver operate an autonomous vehicle, are obvious non-starters of the visually impaired.

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