Blog post by Joanna Hecht, SmartCityPHL Pitch and Pilot Fellow

Everyone should be able to use Philadelphia’s public transit system.  SEPTA continues to make improvements to stations and vehicles to improve experiences for passengers with disabilities.  

Accessibility for transit can include physical features like ramps or elevators. It can also include providing information to riders to safely and enjoyably navigate transit. For example, drivers or conductors may announce important updates on schedules and system status. How can people who are deaf or hard of hearing access that same information in real time?   

A new challenge led by SmartCityPHL is looking for ways to fill accessibility gaps through technology and augmented reality. The City wants to hear from innovators in Philadelphia and from individuals with disabilities to find the right solutions.  

About SEPTA for All

The SEPTA for All challenge asks innovators to present their best ideas for increasing accessibility with augmented reality applications. SmartCityPHL has partnered with Philadelphia’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability (OTIS) and SEPTA to design the challenge. More than $35,000 in cash prizes will be provided to winning entries through generous support from U.S. Ignite, Facebook Reality Labs, and Comcast. The Institute on Disabilities at Temple University has also provided support in shaping the event.  

SmartCityPHL also invites people with disabilities to share their experiences with navigating public transit through a survey, available online through July 17. Survey results will help inform ideas and solutions for the challenge. They will be shared at the challenge kickoff event on July 19 and made available to the public. 

The Process

The challenge will take part in three phases:  

  1. An open application process will collect ideas and information about teams’ capabilities. Applications are due on Monday, August 2 at 5 p.m.
  2. A judging panel will select up to 12 semi-finalists to present their ideas at a virtual pitch event on Friday, August 20. Up to six teams with the top pitches will move on to the final round and receive small grants to develop working prototypes of their ideas. 
  3. At a “Demo Day” on Tuesday, October 26, winning teams will be chosen from among the six finalists to receive a total of more than $30,000 in cash prizes and pilot their idea with SEPTA and the City.