Community Transit Design Challenge Finals

Celebrate the future of public transportation as the Massachusetts Association for the Blind & Text: Community Transit Design Challenge Image: Man walking with a white cane next to a trainVisually Impaired announces the winner of the Boston University’s Innovate@BU Community Transit Design Challenge.

Congratulations to Sarah Hillesheim for her winning solution, Better Bus Stops. Better Bus Stops, proposes installing high-contrast, tactile talking buttons at bus and above-ground T stops that dictate line, stop name, and travel direction. In addition to bragging rights, the winning entry receives $5,000 in seed money as well as mentorship

Congratulations to all the finalists and thank you to Bryan Gould our emcee and our special guest Mona Minkara.

In case you missed or you want to watch again, here is a link to a recording of the event: 

Meeting Recording:

Access Passcode: A@%PyyQ6

Headshot of Dr Mona MinkaraSpecial guest speaker, Dr. Mona Minkara, an advocate for accessibility and representation forPlanes, Trains, and Canes Trailer screenshot people with visual impairments in science. She is a blind scientist, an adventurer, and a storyteller. She is known for her passion, dedication, and commitment to the idea that “Vision is More than Sight”, which has and continues to permeate all her professional and personal projects. Dr. Minkara is a winner of the prestigious Holman Prize for her documentary series Planes, Trains, and Canes, about navigating and access to public transportation systems from around the world.

head shot of Bryan Gould

Master of Ceremony Bryan Gould, Director of Accessible Learning and Assessment Technologies for WGBH, and sighted guide for MABVI’s Team With A Vision. Bryan has been conducting blindness-related research and development projects for over 20 years. His projects range from improving access to complex scientific images and high-stakes assessments to amusement park rides and smartphone apps. Bryan is an expert in writing image descriptions for alt text and audio descriptions for video.


In Greater Boston, and beyond, public transportation is plagued with safety and function problems. A trusted transportation system is THE link to an independent life for many in the blind community. In our current age of technology, we believe there is a better and safer way for all members of the community to travel.


An invitation from Boston University’s Innovate@BU to the Massachusetts Association for the Blind & Visually Impaired made history.  For the first time, teams made up of students and alumni were paired with mentors from the blind community to solve, through human-centered design, a transit problem.


In this multi-round challenge, students and/or alumni have developed and designed new transportation accessibility solutions while competing for a $10,000 prize. For the last year, students/alumni have been creating meaningful solutions with impact, learning to think like an entrepreneur, win funding, connect with experts, and mentors.


Thanks to our panel of judges who have launched businesses, fundraised for medical technology, designed major city transportation hubs, and designed information systems.
  • Chris Anschuetz, Senior Vice President Emeritus for Meditech, and a champion of improving accessibility for MEDITECH’s products and software.
  • Dr. Beverly Brown, wife of Boston University President Robert Brown, and former chief development officer for CIMIT, the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology, and MAB Board member.
  • Mike Ellenbogen, CEO of Evolv Technology and a member of MAB’s board who has been instrumental in creating MAB’s strategy to focus on technology.


Better Bus Stops

Renovating bus stops with unique tactile paving to provide a shoreline on the sidewalk to assist VIP in locating bus stops. The plan also includes installing high-contrast, tactile talking buttons at bus and above-ground T stops that dictate line, stop name and travel direction.


A smartphone application that requires RFID tags, one mounted on a phone case and another located in each subway/bus station. After entering a destination, they can scan their phone at stations, and further visual/voice guidance is given to them.


“Naviband“ is a digital band that can be worn to assist individuals in navigating public transportation. The band incorporates GPS and voice navigation with machine learning, allowing customers to travel safely with confidence.

About the Boston University Innovate@BU

Image of BU Innovate lab buildingBoston University Innovate@BU is a University-wide initiative to enable all BU Terriers to become drivers of innovation in their own lives, careers, and communities. Through its physical home on campus, the BUild Lab IDG Capital Student Innovation Center, Innovate@BU provides experiential learning programs that foster an entrepreneurial mindset by teaching innovation, communication, and collaboration skills.



About Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired

MABVI LogoFounded in 1903, Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired is one of the oldest social service organizations in the country supporting adults and seniors who are blind or low vision. A division of MAB Community Services, Inc., MABVI is a leading provider of integrated medical, social, and rehabilitation services for adults and seniors with vision loss. MABVI empowers individuals and offers them the tools they
need to accomplish their goals by helping to remove barriers and increasing access to services. MABVI
partners with numerous medical, elder services, and community agencies to create high-impact, cost-effective
services for over 1,400 blind and low vision people across the Commonwealth.

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