Bhargava wins 2017 Focus Award for furthering disability access

March 13, 2017
Writer(s): Kristyn Childres

Professor Bharat Bhargava is the winner of Purdue’s 2017 Focus Award, given annually to members of the Purdue community who have made an outstanding contribution to furthering Purdue’s commitment to disability accessibility and disability diversity. 

Bhargava’s research projects include an accessible navigation system for the blind and visually impaired. The system he created is a pedestrian crossing guide, with framework that would allow for the development of an easy-to-use, portable, affordable device that lets blind people know whether it’s safe to cross the street. The system uses a camera to take a photo of a traffic light and send it to the cloud, which determines whether it is red, green or yellow. The software also considers whether other pedestrians (in front and behind) are also crossing the street — the more people are present, the safer it is to cross.

“For the blind and visually impaired, independent living is a huge challenge, largely because of the need for safe and efficient navigation,” Bhargava said. “The system we created is based on collaboration between everyday mobile devices, the many location-specific information resources available on the web, and the computational resources made available by cloud computing.”

Bhargava is committed to teaching others to use technology to help people. He designed a seminar course “Cloud Systems for the Blind and Hearing Impaired”. It teaches graduate students to design and deploy technology for the differently abled. "I train them in this way of thinking so that when they are in industry, they can create systems that helps people with variety of needs and capabilities. The Focus Award is an honor because diversity and accessibility are what I am dedicated and committed to in all of my research and teaching,” Bhargava said.

Bhargava wants to serve as many people as possible — not just computer science majors. His CS 490 course, Emerging Topics and Basics of Computer Science, invites students from all majors on campus to learn about emerging technologies and computer science topics they might not otherwise encounter and benefit from the great advances taking place in Purdue University. 

“Professor Bhargava’s work exemplifies the spirit of Purdue,” said Sunil Prabhakar, head of the Department of Computer Science. “He is committed to providing access to the differently abled, improving disability accessibility and diversity both on campus and throughout the computing industry.”