Fulfilling the Promise of Autonomous Vehicles: A Roadmap to Accessibility

American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is supporting the deployment of safe, accessible autonomous transportation services through robust engagement with the private sector companies bringing autonomous transportation options to market.

By forming authentic and reciprocal partnerships with companies working on autonomous vehicles (AVs), we will address the challenges of accessible design and make sure that the future of transportation is affordable and accessible for people with disabilities.

Coalition Organizing

We Will Ride Coalition logo with name of coalition on the right side in blue and and image of a car with the wheelchair user symbol inside of it and the wifi symbol on top of it on the left side.

AAPD works with a cross-disability group of organizations working on AV accessibility and related issues. Through the We Will Ride coalition, AAPD convenes national disability organizations that are engaging with companies developing autonomous vehicles operating on public roads. We continually expand the circle of our outreach to deepen existing relationships, as well as include more stakeholders.


ADA compliance isn’t an insurmountable challenge for the AV industry. Our initiative creates an opportunity for industry work on the associated issues with organizations representing the lived experience of people with disabilities.

We also provide support for companies designing accessible vehicles. Receiving input from multiple groups on how to address access concerns — for example, HMI needs to work for blind, deaf, and people with cognitive disabilities — provides valuable information to auto designers that will ensure success.

Auto Manufacturers have yet to build an accessible purpose-built, light-duty vehicle that has the physical accessibility able to accommodate all people with disabilities, including wheelchair users. With substantive, constructive engagement, however, we can make universally-accessible vehicles a reality.

Design Consultation

WWR participants are a resource to those in industry working through bodies that develop standards like SAE. We provide consultation for auto manufacturers and AV companies working to address a range of accessibility challenges, including:

ADA accessibility standards. We help manufacturers navigate compliance related to light-duty vehicles operated in a transportation as a service fleet. AAPD coordinates with the US Access Board and the Department of Transportation on the need to develop guidance on accessibility for the class of vehicles that have historically been built exclusively for a consumer market that has not included the needs of disabled people, especially wheelchair users, and blind riders.

Wheelchair securement and passenger restraint. For wheelchair users that remain in their chair while in transit securing the chair and donning a passenger restraint system is a long standing challenge. Doing this without assistance in an autonomous vehicle can only be achieved through a multi stakeholder collaborative process. Some of this work is underway and we hope to catalyze some of the important work that comes from the collaboration industry, research community, regulators and consumers.

Measuring Progress

First launched in 2019, the AAPD Vehicle Accessibility Scorecard is a key component of our strategy for both OEM engagement and industry tracking. Its core mechanic is a survey that charts progress by auto manufacturers toward the design and production of an accessible vehicle that can accommodate people with a wide range of disabilities, including power wheelchair users. We announced the scorecard in 2019, and issued our first public progress report in July 2020. Tracking this progress year-to-year will allow us to tell the ongoing story of this journey toward deployment of accessible autonomous vehicles.

We continue this important work to track auto company progress toward their accessible design and production goals. Only by working directly with automakers, and tracking their milestones toward success, will we overcome the industry’s history of disability exclusion and reach a transportation future that is accessible to all.


CPUC Rule Mandating WAV ServiceAn order Instituting Rulemaking to implement Senate Bill 1376 creating a public fund that transportation network companies and others can access to provide service for persons with disabilities, including wheelchair users who need a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. Read here.
2020 AAPD Auto Accessibility Scorecard Progress ReportIn honor of the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) issued its first public progress report on its Automobile Accessibility Scorecard. The scorecard tracks progress by auto manufacturing companies toward the design and production of an accessible vehicle that can accommodate people with a wide range of disabilities, including power wheelchair users, across 29 criteria. Read here.
Auto Alliance AVs & Increased Accessibility Workshop SeriesThe Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers organized a three-part Workshop Series, “Automated Vehicles (AVs) & Increased Accessibility”, to explore the accessible passenger vehicle transportation needs and potential technology solutions of people with disabilities and older adults. The Workshop Series also assessed broader impacts of assistive technologies, including the current legal and policy landscape. Outcomes of the workshop included findings and recommendations. Read here.
Self-Driving Cars – the Impact on People with DisabilitiesIn the United States, approximately one in every five people, or more than 57 million, has a disability. This includes more than 3.8 million veterans with a service-connected disability. The most recent government transport survey indicated that six million individuals with a disability have difficulty getting the transportation they need. Read here.
ITS America – Driverless Cars and Accessibility Fully automated vehicles, when they begin to be deployed in significant numbers, will offer the potential to usher in enormous positive changes. Anticipated benefits include lowered traffic fatalities and injuries, as well as potentially expanded access to transportation for those who cannot drive or those who face significant barriers to driving. For individuals who cannot legally obtain a driver’s license, fully automated “driverless” vehicles offer the opportunity to become more mobile and independent. Access to transportation means access to jobs, education, and healthcare, which is a major challenge for people with disabilities. Read here.
AGI – Assessing the Unmet Transportation Needs of Americans with DisabilitiesAmericans with disabilities are currently underserved by transportation options. Autonomous Vehicles (“AVs”) have the potential to significantly improve the mobility of Americans with disabilities by partially or fully automating the driving process. However, these improvements are only possible if automobile manufacturers consider people with disabilities and others with travel-limiting conditions when constructing these vehicles and include universal accessibility principles in their designs. Read here.
DREDF – Fully Accessible Autonomous Vehicles ChecklistWe Will Ride coalition member DREDF offers a checklist of important accessibility features for Human Machine Interface, Hardware, Policy, and Legislation. Read here.
National Council on Disabilities Report on AVsAutonomous vehicles have enormous potential to alleviate the challenges people with a variety of disabilities face when they cannot obtain a driver’s license and to promote their independence. However, the needs of this population must be taken into account throughout the development of these emerging technologies and the regulatory schemes that will govern their production, testing, and use. Read here.

Official Comments

Below, find official comments filed by AAPD and members of the We Will Ride coalition:

We Will Ride response to DOT Accessibility Challenge Grant RFI: Members of the We Will Ride Coalition offer support and encouragement to the U. S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in its efforts to launch an inclusive design challenge to enable access to automated vehicles (AVs) for persons with disabilities. Read here.

AAPD Response to Department of Transportation’s AV 3.0 Guidance: In response to the US Department of Transportation (DOT) Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0 Guidance, members of the We Will Ride coalition, including AAPD, offer feedback that will improve the draft regulatory framework and pave the way for accessible vehicles. Read here.

Coalition Participants

AAPD (Convener)
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)
National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)
Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA)
United Spinal Association

AV Accessibility Sponsors

Support for AAPD’s AV accessibility work is provided by:

Our Sponsors