With AI And Other Tech, Anat Caspi Focuses On Helping People With Disabilities

Lewis has helped update the map database to include elevator hours and has tested the app's downtown Seattle routes, and now he mostly uses AccessMap to check the incline level in unfamiliar areas of the city. He added that he wished something similar had been available during a recent trip to Lisbon, Portugal, a city known for its steep hills.

Caspi began partnering with King County Metro paratransit services about four years ago. Now OpenSidewalks organizes the sidewalk data in a common format so users in different areas can customize trip itineraries.

The county's collaboration with Taskar has allowed the transportation department to leverage crowdsourcing data that makes public transit more accessible to all people, said Matthew Weidner, a transportation planner with King County's Access Transportation program.

"What (Caspi) brings is perspective on how we better the environment and better society by taking diverse sets of technologies and computational thinking ... that really helps us deliver something for people with disabilities that wasn't there before," said Weidner.

Mark Hallenbeck, the director of the Washington State Transportation Center at the University of Washington, said Caspi has a unique skill set of data analytics expertise and an understanding of issues facing people with disabilities.

"She has a lot of passion for what she does in an area that is often neglected on the funding side," said Hallenbeck, "She's a great lady."

Caspi is also turning the tables on traditional work and play environments in a project that seeks to better accommodate the needs and preferences of individuals. She points to a clear, hexagonal table atop a wooden platform in her office, a device she and her team at the Taskar Center are designing that uses sensors and cameras to understand and adjust to the needs of its users by swiveling and tilting depending on the situation. For instance, the table could dip toward different participants based on their turns during playtime or work on a collaborative project.

It's an example, she said, of how "technology can be a lot more ambient and encourage us to be more social, more team playing, collaborative, and still be assistive."

Anat Caspi Education: B.S., computer science and feminist studies; M.S., artificial intelligence; Ph.D., bioengineering Role: Director of the Taskar Center for Accessible Technology at the University of Washington Quote: "Access to mobility and transportation translates to access to school, to education, to workplace, to economic opportunities, to therapies, to health outcomes, to everything." ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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