MacArthur Foundation Fellowship winner focuses on visually impaired transit riders

Joshua Miele has been given the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship award for creating effective and affordable solutions to everyday problems visually impaired people encounter, including using public transit.

Miele, who is visually impaired, is an adaptive technology designer who develops devices to enable people with sight issues to use technologies that pervade society.

In 2016, the Berkeley resident won the Doris W. Kahn Accessible Transportation Award for his work on designing  and producing Braille and tactile maps for BART and San Francisco’s Muni Metro stations.

He designed a set of maps for every station for BART — including platforms and street-level features — that are compatible with an audio smart pen, making it possible for blind travelers to virtually explore and plan their route through the BART system.

Miele has also worked to make features on smart phones and portable devices more accessible to visually impaired individuals. His YouDescribe platform combines crowd-sourced audio descriptions of YouTube videos with an interface to synchronize the descriptive audio with the video source.

Currently, Miele is an accessibility researcher at Amazon, where he has contributed to projects such as Braille compatibility with Fire tablets and a “Show and Tell” feature on camera-enabled Echo devices that can identify pantry and food items. Miele’s expertise in information accessibility and commitment to making solutions available for mass use is increasingly important in a more digitized world, the MacArthur Foundation noted.