Spatial PhD public transport project for people on autism spectrum wins NSW Innovation Challenge


“Approximately one in five people in Australia have some form of disability. This means many people face barriers to access transport services. These barriers prevent people with disability from more active participation in employment, education, recreation and community life.” (Source)

The NSW Government, through Transport for NSW and the Department of Finance, Service and Innovation, set a challenge known as ‘The Smart Cities and Accessibility Innovation Challenge’ which called on submissions from businesses, innovators and entrepreneurs to put forward their ideas on how cities in NSW can be made smarter and more accessible for everyone. As such, a public transport PhD project was submitted for this challenge by Mortaza Rezae, PhD candidate from the Department of Spatial Sciences, and Cheryl Mangan, from the Autism CRC.  Their proposal highlighted the importance of public transport accessibility for people with cognitive disabilities, particularly for people on the autism spectrum.

Eight submissions reached the final stages of the challenge and were evaluated by a distinguished panel. The Curtin University and Autism CRC was chosen as one of the three winners. Their project was successful in securing a generous grant and an included 10-week incubation by one of Australia’s leading accelerator programs. The funding and resources will be utilised to enhance the research capacity and to ensure that the final product, mobile app, is market ready and that the team has the reach and insight to make public transport accessible for people on the autism spectrum.

The app is designed to assist people on the spectrum plan and manage their journeys, while also providing real time support through various de-escalation functionalities, on-the-go re-routing and notifications.

Congratulations to Mortaza and his supervisor Dr. David McMeekin, for the part they played in winning this highly competitive challenge.