A real-time transit guide for autistic adults.
How can we help autistic adults achieve independence when riding public transportation?
October - December, 2019 (10 weeks)
Interaction Design, Visual Design, Ideation, Storyboarding, Prototyping, Research
Xue (Miki) Bin, Mehul Shah
By providing autistic adults reassurance before and during their transit ride through the use of location-based and contextual guides, we reinforced our users' confidence to ride independently to their destination.
Besides receiving real-time alerts, users can review contextual transit etiquette guides before and during their ride to be better prepared for their transit journey.
Calling for Help
If in a high-stress situation, users can call for help from other Infinite Transit users, who will respond to the emergency by assisting with their immediate transit issue.
After successfully arriving at their destination, users can share their experience by commenting on guidebooks and submitting posts, growing as a community contributor.
We learned how the mental models of autistic adults require greater contextual information to understand public transit etiquettes, and more importantly, how their misunderstanding of these etiquettes leads to their heightened anxieties and resorting to other modes of transportation. My team and I worked through the design process to address this problem.
"Hey, Cheyenne, limited public transportation resources leave autistic people hesitant to ride on their own. How can we help autistic adults to achieve independence when riding public transit?"
Because Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurological cognitive disorder, certain environments or scenarios, like confusing bus routes or delayed bus arrivals, are triggers for people with autism. This leaves autistic individuals anxious and confused about what to do next. Since existing solutions only address an autistic child's challenges, I discovered a gap in the market and an opportunity to help autistic adults navigate a ubiquitous space that everyone relates to but is not always accessible to everyone: transportation.
Researching academic writings, statistics, participant surveys from online autism communities, and expert interviews with the University of Washington's Autism Center's psychologists and autistic adults, we learned the difficulties users face when riding public transit.
3.5 million Americans live with Autism Spectrum Disorder
½ million autistic people will enter adulthood in the next year
Autistic people are constrained by limited transportation resources
*"I did not know to signal the bus to stop at first. I didn't know if I was supposed to say anything to the bus driver or not. I didn't know that you're not supposed to put your bag on the seat next to you."
— r/autism Reddit User
Primary Findings and Observations.
Many autistic people actively engage and share experiences in online platforms such as Reddit and Twitter
In our survey, 67% of participants shared they are relieved once getting off their bus ride
Their mental model requires explicit, clear instructions in any scenario
Though autistic people may want to give context to other transit passengers, exposing their condition may be uncomfortable
Sympathizing with our users' need for explicit instructions, we identified a great number of pain points. I narrowed the list to provide a succinct representation of participants' obstacles in their transit journeys to streamline communication between stakeholders.
John, Autistic Adult and Inexperienced Rider
Fascinated by technology,
Easily nervous and disoriented in public settings,
Has only ridden the bus 5 times to get home
Wants to reach his new destination,
Wants to learn how to ride the bus throughout the city,
Wants to independently ride public transit
Doesn't know what to expect on his public transit ride,
Doesn't know how to ask other passengers for help,
Panicked, and doesn't know how to request for the bus to stop
After identifying the critical pain points, we ideated over 90 different concepts then downselected, storyboarded, and wireframed through three concepts. Afterward, we formulated design principles to utilize as a framework for our future design decisions and as a way of rationalizing the value add we were eager to bring to our users.
After ideation, I held a brainstorming session with my team to understand what users lack from existing transit applications while also reinforcing why independence is critical for our solution.
Provide users contextual information of the anticipated experience
Help users obtain the freedom and ability to travel without assistance
Give the autism community their voice to support other autistic adults
After refining our new concepts, we each developed wireframes to represent each user flow. The three flows represent each part of the user's end-to-end journey through contextual guides, gamified tasks, and community forums.
Wireframe sketches by Mehul Shah.
With the need for explicit instructions, users would be able to reference contextual guidebooks before their commute.
Wireframe sketches by me.
With gaming, users can complete tasks through their commute to learn and build memory on what to expect during their transit journey.