Pittsburgh Ride Right

Ride Right Pittsburgh offers a way for non-English speakers in Pittsburgh to travel to necessary appointments and facilities via public transportation without placing undue burden on English-speaking children or demanding the use of expensive technology. This is the result of a 7-week project exploring the intersection of design and social innovation.


My group began by selecting 3 different areas of concern to look into:

  1. Building Our Past: Preserve historic buildings to create more jobs and develop the city through a sustainable practice
  2. City of Immigrants: Foster a community that works to achieve inclusion and opportunity for every resident of Pittsburgh
  3. Rebuild Pittsburgh: Connect unemployed or underemployed residents with job and skill-training opportunities that would come from helping to restore buildings in disrepair

We posited an initial research question: How can we design a construction skill-building platform that teaches immigrants the necessary skills to acquire a job in the field while working on historic restoration projects in Pittsburgh? How long would a program like this take and is it possible to provide certifications in the process?



In order to better understand these three areas, we conducted a number of interviews with local experts from government groups and non-profits, such as Habitat for Humanity, Vibrant Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh Historic Landmark Foundation.
At the conclusion of our interviews, we realized that trying to fulfill 3 separate needs in Pittsburgh was too complicated for a seven-week project. We needed to narrow or pivot. Based on the information we learned from our expert interviews, we decided that immigrant issues were the most pressing need in Pittsburgh, and decided to focus on the rapidly growing Bhutanese population as a case study of the immigrant experience. The Bhutanese refugee population is the fastest growing immigrant segment in Pittsburgh today.

Further research

We then began to learn more about the Bhutanese community in Pittsburgh.

Due to the limited time, we decided to focus on a single issue while keeping in mind the greater issues at play. Through secondary research we learned that communication in the doctor’s office was a particularly big pain point. Our focus then became

How might we ease the emotional and physical burden of visiting the doctor as a non-English speaking Bhutanese refugee in Pittsburgh?

To better understand, we spoke with community leaders as well as those who worked in ESL and translation services for the Bhutanese in Pittsburgh. We then mapped the experience of visiting the doctor for a Bhutanese person. From this, a greater understanding of the web of immigrant needs arose. We identified a number of pain points and explored ways to address each.



Due to limitations in time and access, we decided to focus on the experience of getting to and from the doctor’s office. Addressing this need would be accessible and have a large impact on care compliance.

Our access to non-english speaking Bhutanese immigrants was limited. However, one of the leaders of the Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh shared a story of a couple who spent all day trying to get to the doctor’s office, without ever finding it and needing to repeat the process because of confusion over public transportation. Other families overcome this by taking their English-speaking children out of school to guide and escort them.

The navigation issue is exacerbated by two underlying causes: refugees resettlement organizations often set up a doctor for the Bhutanese in the neighborhood they – the resettlement organization – are located in, while the majority of the refugees live an hour by bus away where there is a strong Bhutanese population. The second reason is a lack of resources for navigating public transit for non-english speakers.

As we sought to find a solution for this issue, we were faced with three key limitations:

  1. The solution must be low tech as the refugees rarely have smart phones
  2. It must be accessible for non-english speakers – and often illiterate Nepali speakers
  3. It need to consider the elderly with poor eyesight

In finding a solution, we would be able to not only help immigrants, but also allow children of the immigrants, who often do speak english to be relieved of the responsibility of translator and escort.


We developed a card set that would guide immigrants to the doctor’s office in their own language. The set is purposefully low tech, simply designed, and cheap so that non-profits can afford to produce them.


We tested the idea with other classmates using both an “audio” guide as well as visual cards to guide them to another (unknown) point in the building to see if the directions a methods worked. We found the visual cards to be much more successful because of the ability to refer back to previous steps if confused and a way to visually confirm one had reached the right landmark.

The Kit includes

1. Visual card set guide to key places not frequently visited
2. Optional audio guide for those hard of hearing or illiterate
3. A bilingual map
4. A bus


The kit could be expanded to cover other essential trips that are made infrequently (and so unlikely to be memorized). Workers could use the cards in the resettlement process so that refugees understand how to use them, and the trips are at least slightly familiar.


This is, at best, a band aid, however. More systematic changes need to be made. The use of the Social Innovation Matrix allowed us to assess the problems at every level: