Salina, KS— Siny Joseph, professor and graduate faculty at Kansas State University Salina Aerospace and Technology Campus, is among a team of five researchers who have been awarded grant funding from the National Science Foundation Convergence Accelerator program to improve accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Wichita State University is leading the $750,000 National Science Foundation, or NSF, grant to gather information and create digital maps of indoor spaces that could be used by persons with disabilities. Joseph is a co-principal investigator on the research team.

The NSF Convergence Accelerator program selected 16 multidisciplinary teams to develop tools and technologies to enhance the quality of life and employment access and opportunities for persons with disabilities as part of Track H: Enhancing Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.

According to Wichita State, the creation of MABLE, or Mapping for Accessibility in Built Environments, maps through crowdsourcing, experiences, observations and robots will help persons with disabilities assess, plan and navigate indoor environments with audio and visual information. Envisioned users include those with visual or mobility impairments.

While recent advances in indoor localization technology provide opportunities to enable real-time navigation and wayfinding within built environments, continued progress has been slowed by the lack of detailed and usable accessibility information. The project aims to create a community-driven framework and prototypes for information collection, processing and analysis for accessible maps, navigating and wayfinding development.

Joseph’s role in the research project will focus on creating frameworks for quantifying economic benefits from accessible built environments encompassing perspectives of future economic growth potential, cost savings and return on investments.

Joseph has been a faculty member with K-State Salina since 2012. She earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a Master of Business Administration, specializing in marketing and operations research, from institutions in India, and a master’s and a doctorate in resource economics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

She was also the recipient of the 2022 McArthur Award for excellence in teaching and research at K-State Salina.

The first phase of the one-year NSF grant is designed to develop new technologies and tools to enhance the quality of life and employment access and opportunities for persons with disabilities. At the end of phase one, the 16 teams will submit a formal proposal and participate in a pitch to be selected for phase two. Selected teams will receive up to $5 million in additional support during 24 months to develop their solutions and sustainability development plans.

View the award abstract for more information.