A new approach to designing transport systems

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accessible transport


Tally Hatzakis | Senior Research Analyst

Date: 28 October 2020

Trilateral Research, alongside our partners in the TRIPS project, is in a vex of redesigning and reinvesting in urban transport systems in European cities.

This holds a great promise for making them accessible for all from their inception. One in five Europeans currently face some mobility issue, and this ratio is expected to rise as Europe is faced with an aging demographic.  Limited transport has deprived disabled people not only from easy access to services and social life and civic participation, but fundamentally from equal opportunities to education, employment, lifestyle choices and the fundamental right to autonomy.

So far, attempts to retrofit transport systems with accessibility have failed to enable disabled users to travel independently to their final destination. Accessibility has been seen as a legal obligation by each and every transport operator, and efforts have been of low priority, constrained financially, ad hoc and siloed. The situation is a bit better in the big cities of rich European countries (such as Stockholm), but for people living even in the capital of poorer countries (such as Sophia) the situation is still dire.

“Nothing for us, without us!”

Accessibility is something to be done for disabled users, but largely, in their absence.  The TRIPS project seeks to turns tables in how we design transport systems. We don’t seek to design systems that are disability friendly, but systems that are disability-centric, and do so there is only one way. Put disabled users in the driving seat of innovation. We have now presented our approach on a paper titled: “Co-Production of Knowledge for Designing Inclusive Digital Mobility Solutions–The Methodological Approach and Process of the TRIPS Project in the “Future Perspectives of AT, eAccessibility and eInclusion” forum of the ICCHP 2020 conference. To find more about the forum, the conference, or our approach (see p. 179), click here.

We started the works with a basic step; user requirements! We deployed social media analysis and semi-structured interviews to understand the existing mobility barriers as well as users’ top of mind mobility criteria. Our research teams, all disabled people, conducted fieldwork in 7 European cities with different characteristics. They sampled social media posts and online comments on local transport and interviewed peers in their cities about their mobility difficulties.

To make an impact we joined forces with other EU projects all working towards the empowerment of vulnerable people and communities to play a central role in the design of mobility products, services, and strategies, to address the members of POLIS. The POLIS Network comprises a number of European cities and regions working together to develop innovative technologies and policies for local transport. Taking part in their event on: “Mobilising Mobility: How to make mobility work for all – embracing inclusiveness” allowed us to make the point that inclusivity is an essential element for the creation of transport systems that can really work for all.

Our message is simple, and common sense. If disabled users design future transport systems they will not only cater for their own needs, but for the needs of everyone – older people, mothers with prams, foreigners with limited knowledge of the language, people who struggle financially, people who face temporary health issues, like a stroke or a broken leg.  Disabled people have faced these mobility difficulties every day of their lives, so they are indeed the experts in advising how to make transport systems truly assessable-for-all.  If you would like to follow our discussion find the recording here.

For more information on the TRIPS project, find us here or contact our team.

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