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Lauren Mattar, Technical Program Manager

As the world moves to smarter and cleaner solutions, our organization works to create solutions that are accessible. Accessibility is a key focus area for the Michigan Mobility Funding Platform (MMFP), a priority evidenced by the multiple grant winners that have projects focused on accessible mobility solutions. Launched by the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification (OFME), in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the Michigan Mobility Funding Platform provides grants to mobility and electrification organizations looking to deploy solutions in the state of Michigan. NextEnergy is a proud partner of the Michigan Mobility Funding Platform and shares in the excitement around these accessible mobility projects.

The first two rounds of MMFP funding have yielded three grant winners with active projects working to provide accessible solutions for mobility challenges faced by various communities throughout the state. Because these grant projects address similar but unique use cases, the NextEnergy team brought these organizations together for a networking opportunity. These organizations are:

AbleLink SmartLiving Technologies

AbleLink WayFinder helps people with intellectual disabilities to travel safely, whether by bus or on foot. The traveler simply taps on the picture of their desired destination and the software takes over from there.

MMFP project: In collaboration with W.A.V.E (Western-Washtenaw Area Value Express), Programs to Educate All Cyclists (PEAC) and Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART), AbleLink Smart Living Technologies will help make independent travel more accessible to individuals with cognitive disabilities or those experiencing cognitive decline by implementing its WayFinder Ecosystem into the transit systems serving Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw Counties. With the Ecosystem in place, users who typically have challenges learning fixed transit routes will be able to safely access and learn routes and build confidence in their independent transportation skills.

Lazarillo

Lazarillo is a specialized application for the blind and visually impaired which guides users through their city and building environments with real-time voice messages and connects users with businesses through accessible online shopping and notification services!

MMFP project: Lazarillo will work to improve mobility and accessibility for people with visual disabilities living in key areas and neighborhoods within Detroit, such as Corktown, Midtown, Mexicantown and Downtown. In partnership with Newlab, Ford, Eyelearn, and public transit groups including the Detroit Department of Transportation, Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART), QLine and the People Mover, Lazarillo will enhance geolocation services for public transportation systems in Detroit as well as map street intersections, sidewalks and businesses in the area to help users with visual impairments reach their destinations with more precision and navigate city life more safely.

MUVE

MUVE offers on-demand, door-to-door accessible transportation and service will soon be available in your area!

The MUVE app allows users to:

  • Specify accessibility needs for themselves or their loved ones, for a safe and affordable mobility experience.
  • Easily book on-demand, or schedule accessible trips, with door-to-door, arm-to-arm assistance, with drivers trained for sensitivity awareness and able to assist users of all abilities.
  • Be part of incredible community events and social inclusion initiatives.
  • Tag accessible locations and help your community.

MMFP project: Together with W.A.V.E., MUVE will help bring more accessibility options to riders, dispatchers, and drivers and enhance operational efficiency through technology that allows transit and on-demand ride-hailing to be fully integrated to help users of all abilities, including seniors, veterans, and others living with mobility challenges, get to their destination safely.

In April, NextEnergy hosted a virtual networking session to connect the leaders of AbleLink SmartLiving Technologies, Lazarillo, and MUVE. Each group shared more about their organization, their ongoing work, and their grant project within the program. There was also an open discussion where the groups talked about lessons learned, shared best practices, and brainstormed ideas for further collaboration, connection, and growth in Michigan.

The networking session was a great opportunity to connect these three organizations that have accessibility at the forefront of their mobility solutions.

In addition to these three projects, many of the MMFP grant winners have accessibility as a portion of their solution, including a test-site grant at the Detroit Smart Parking Lab with Arrive and Tappy Guide.  This project is utilizing artificial intelligence to provide location, type, and availability of handicapped parking spaces to users of Tappy Guide. Specifically, Tappy Guide–a smart city and mobility solution for senior citizens and people with disabilities–will help users locate and identify available accessible parking spaces for those who require either van-accessible or standard accessible parking spaces. The company will also be able to help users identify information such as wheelchair ramps, curbs, location for building entrances and exits, elevators, stairways, and parking structure entrances and exits.

Round three of MMFP Real World Deployment Grants were announced last month, and the winning projects are all solutions that help expand electric mobility access across the state.

To learn more about MMFP, including reading more about past grant winners or learning how to apply for an MMFP grant, visit https://www.michiganbusiness.org/mobility-funding/ or contact Lauren Mattar at LaurenM@nextenergy.org.

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