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Research Highlight: Rupy Sawhney

Rupy SawhneyThanks to innovative research by a team led by Rupy Sawhney in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, the ability to maneuver through daily activities could become easier for people facing any number of challenges. The team has developed an app that allows those who rely on Knox County Community Action Committee (CAC) transportation to alert the system of their physical, mental, or linguistic needs.

Eric Arendt, a graduate student in the department who succumbed to cancer in March 2014, conceived of the idea as a way to communicate medical needs of riders to transportation providers. Named Project Eric in Arendt’s memory, the project involved interviewing more than 600 people to determine their needs.

“What began to emerge was the importance of riders being able to communicate what their needs were, whether there is an emergency on board or anything that might help the whole process,” said Sawhney.

If someone with a muscular disorder were to suffer an episode, for example, the app could notify the CAC driver of the issue, prompting them to monitor or respond to the situation.

Students have begun the process of refining the initial app, fine-tuning it to meet the needs of real-world passengers and groups. The CAC said working with UT to develop the app will help many passengers who depend on the transit services. A steering committee, including a wide range of area organizations that deal with transportation or disabilities—from Knoxville Area Transit to the Office of Aging—gave input and feedback.

Ten government-level bodies and more than twenty-five businesses were involved. Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero unveiled the app at a recent event and has shown interest in the app’s role in making the city one of the most friendly for the disabled.

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