Mobility Matters 2020 features youth leadership focus
Author: Jillian Daley
Posted: December 23, 2019

Mobility Matters promises to be a little different in 2020, featuring a youth focus in its partnerships and outreach.

Mobility Matters, Portland State University’s annual summit on transportation accessibility, is slated for Wednesday, March 18, 2020, at the Smith Memorial Student Union, 1825 SW Broadway. The event always seeks to highlight advances in technology and new approaches for transportation systems that benefit people with disabilities. But this time, lead organizer Amy Parker, an assistant professor in the PSU College of Education (COE), is shifting the focus to spotlight youth leaders, involving the millennial-led DeafBlind Citizens in Action (DBCA) as partners and speakers, and incorporating social media, such as Instagram.

“Including and preparing young people who happen to have disabilities isn’t just a nice thing to do; it’s a smart thing to do,” said Parker, who is also coordinator of the Orientation and Mobility (O&M) program in the Special Education Department of COE. “Inclusive dialogues and experiences promote shared learning and create practical solutions for mobility and transportation.”


The event offers innovation ideas for all ages, but the theme reflects this focus on youths. It is Youth Leadership: Growing Interdisciplinary Solutions Through Partnerships and Smart Design = Accessible Design. DBCA President Amita Srinivasan said that her group is collaborating with PSU on Mobility Matters to help make life better for people with disabilities.


“Participation in community life is key to increasing well-being for people with disabilities,” Srinivasan said. “We want to be able to access transportation services and find our way through local areas confidently and safely.”

Srinivasan said tech is important because it is one of the keys to making life better for people with disabilities. She said one particularly important area is smart technology, which includes devices that connect to the internet and can anticipate users’ needs. But smart technology is limited because of its creators’ mainstream perspective, she said.

“Most technology and transportation is designed for the general consumer, and accessibility is added as an afterthought for people with disabilities,” Srinivasan said. “I do hope that big tech will consult with and learn from us about the features we would need or require in any wayfinding tech, be it safety features or accessibility features. I am sure our input would lead to more robustly designed products for everyone.”

One of Parker’s co-organizers, Sam Phillips, said she is impressed with how the DBCA is bringing high school students to the summit to learn about and discuss mobility issues.

Youths’ voices are critical for creating change, said Phillips, a PSU student worker for O&M and the Visually Impaired Learner programs, who is also studying rehabilitation counseling in the COE.

“That comfort with technology and how it informs access and mobility is often a youth thing,” Phillips said.

Mobility Matters sessions include Youth Leadership and Innovations and Youth Reflections Moving Forward. Speakers include: Srinivasan, Divya Goel, and George Stern of the DBCA; Walt Marchbanks, customer relations manager at Port of Portland; PSU Assistant Professor Kristin Tufte (Maseeh College of Engineering & Computer Science); Cornell Tech Assistant Professor Shiri Azenkot; Breanne Morton, program manager at MTM Inc. (formerly Medical Transportation Management); and Ellen Bowman, visual impairment and deafblindness consultant.

Mobility Matters launched in 2018 when O&M united with Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) to create a forum to discuss the connection of technology, innovation, and design to accessibility and wayfinding. PSU’s Digital City Testbed Center will be one of O&M’s key partners this coming year at Mobility Matters.

Mobility Matters 2020 may still be months away, but DBCA is already contributing to the transportation conversation. Members weighed in on how to treat people with disabilities when traveling for the holidays, and how people with disabilities can advocate for themselves:

  • “As a deaf-blind traveler, always make sure you have a way to communicate and a backup method in case your primary method fails.” —Quinn Michaela Burch, DBCA
  • “Please do not grab my elbow or arm without asking me if I need assistance first; you will just startle me and cause unnecessary stress.” —Amita Srinivasan, DBCA
  • “Please show respect and approach us knowing that we all communicate differently. Be patient.” —Divya Goel and Jeremy Best, DBCA

Questions? Contact Assistant Professor Amy Parker at If you’re having trouble reading the program, please contact us or access a print version here: Look for an Instagram page for PSU Mobility Matters soon and look for updates on the O&M and COE Facebook pages!
General Admission: Full Price: $130; Early Bird: $95 (all ages are welcome)
Students: Full Price: $45; Early Bird: $30
Note: Early Bird prices last until January 25, 2020, and all tickets include a continental breakfast, coffee, tea, water, and lunch. In addition, refunds are available up to three weeks prior to the event, minus a $15 service fee. Substitutions are accepted at no charge.

We invite you to sign up or log In to create a personalized schedule and remain up-to-date!


First Photo: A collaboration of O&M with community partners results in a tour of Portland International Airport. Photo courtesy of PSU files

Second Photo: DeafBlind Citizens in Action President Amita Srinivasan will be one of the many speakers at Mobility Matters 2020.

To share stories on the College of Education, contact Jillian Daley.