What you can learn from over 500 people with disabilities about removing barriers in public transport

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TRIPS is an EU-funded project, which aims at making public transport more accessible for persons with disabilities, elderly voyagers, and really everyone.

As one of the corner stones for the development of innovative solutions in this respect, a survey was carried out among over 500 people with disabilities living in 21 European countries, to understand the current state of play and the nature of the currently inaccessibility or lack of accessibility of urban public transport systems.

In a second vein, a series of co-design workshops brought together people with disabilities, transport providers, assistive technology professionals and policy makers in six European cities to explore new ways of making public transport more accessible and inclusive.

Recommendations

Building on the survey results in combination with insights gained from the workshops, the project consortium arrived at a first set of policy recommendations to inform local and regional decision-makers and public transport providers about how to improve the accessibility and usability of public transport systems in the short- to middle-term:

  • Consider “accessibility” in a broader sense – it concerns non only those registered as disabled but those with any kind of impairment, whether permanent or temporary;
  • Enable persons with disabilities to own smart technologies and smart assistive technologies to enable them to interact with smart mobility systems;
  • Raise the digital competence of persons with disabilities and their confidence to use smart technologies;
  • Ensure greater collaboration between urban and transport planning to design accessible door-to-door routes;
  • Invest in the accessibility of all vehicles in the new ‘green’ fleets – access to all vehicles will minimize time delays due to inability to board or overcrowding;
  • Invest in the accessibility of cities and transport infrastructure – accessibility is a door-to-door issue;
  • Use public campaigns to improve social attitudes and transport etiquette towards persons with disabilities and access needs;
  • Make the participation of disability/accessibility experts mandatory for the development of standards for vehicles, mobility systems and transport services;
  • Update the laws and policies on EU transport accessibility and passenger rights and upgrade their enforcement across member states;
  • Invest in a European Accessible Design Centre of excellence that can provide relevant expertise to European companies;
  • Establish “learn from peers” initiatives to enable knowledge and expertise inflows from several cities and regions worldwide which have invested great efforts in realizing accessible transport;
  • Integrate privacy protection, data security, machine safety (with respect to liability) early in your thinking;
  • Systematically screen local/regional regulations, guidelines, best practice cases, success stories, etc. world-wide for evaluating their experiences and share successful implementations of accessibility solutions;
  • Coordinate urban public transport with suburban and regional transport to provide smooth transitions for travelers with and without disabilities;
  • Collaborate with emergency systems, health institutions, language and communication service providers, etc. where appropriate to prevent communications breakdown at critical points;
  • Tie up with private industry initiatives and pertinent R&D activities to encourage and promote the development of innovative as well as progressive accessibility solutions;

As you see from this list, not everything is expensive or complicated. Several of these recommendations are fairly easy to implement and local and regional disability groups would certainly welcome the opportunity to be involved and support transport providers and policy makers with practical advice.

In the long run, however, investments in the transport infrastructure are needed. Infrastructural barriers are the most limiting barriers as they often make independent travel impossible. While assistive equipment can help mitigate inaccessible design, the removal of structural barriers is crucial in the long-term.

A “triple win”

Given the potential to empower those facing any kind of impairment, whether permanent or temporary, to live independently, removing barriers and investing in accessible public transport can score a “triple win”. It facilitates an inclusive society that goes hand-in-hand with environmental and economic sustainability. The most efficient route to developing effective solutions is by involving all affected stakeholders. A participatory process could address the tension between implementing solutions for  broad  groups  of  the population and addressing individuals’ needs.

About TRIPS

TRIPS stands for “TRansport Innovation for disabled People needs Satisfaction”. The EU-funded project, TRIPS, aims at making public transport more accessible for persons with disabilities, elderly voyagers, and really everyone. More information and access to the project deliverables: https://trips-project.eu/

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