Older people like self driving vehicles

Graphic from the paper showing the elements people would think about when planning a journey with an autonomous vehicle.A series of workshops with older people in UK revealed they are likely to welcome autonomous vehicles. The workshops also gave participants time to think about some of the implications, both negative and positive.  Accessibility was a key factor. Declining vision and hearing, as well as dexterity issues such as arthritis, were mentioned in relation to touch screens. Being able to stop for a toilet, room for a pet and for shopping or luggage, and where to leave the vehicle at the end of the trip were factors that designers need to consider. There’s good information about older people and their reasons for travel, and how autonomous vehicles might enhance their ability to get out and about and socialise.

The title of the paper is, Finding from Workshops held with Older People considering participating in Connected Autonomous Vehicle trials. It also contains information about the five levels of autonomy of vehicles. The workshops are part of a larger project, Flourish, a multi-sector collaboration.

See also Lifelong Mobility with Automation. 

Editor’s note: Too many people are thinking about drivers and self-driving vehicles when in fact, fully automated vehicles are self-passenger-ing. That is, no-one is driving, so everyone is a passenger. 

The graphic from the article shows factors older people thought about when making a journey: toilets, luggage space, route choice, refuelling, journey time, leaving vehicle at destination, and road conditions.

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What drivers’ can’t see on the road

A red and white circular sign with a 20 speed limit showing.Here’s a call to traffic planners. A group in the UK is calling for slower speed limits on roads to help reduce pedestrian accidents.They list all the conditions where slower speeds could make a difference and allow people to cross the road safely. Drivers can’t tell if someone has anxiety, dementia, post traumatic stress or sleep disorder. Traffic can make them feel vulnerable and fearful. People who are deaf or hard of hearing, and people with low vision are also at risk of accidents. Pregnant women, older people, and people with prosthetic legs or chronic illness might not be spotted either. Even if they are, it is unlikely to change driver behaviour or alertness. The 20’s Plenty for Us press release links their call to the disability rights agenda which requires equitable treatment for everyone. Traffic planners should therefore assume everyone is vulnerable.

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All aboard for accessibility

In the train carriage, a woman is seated in a manual wheelchair and is sitting next to a man in a standard seat. They are looking at an in-seat screen, probably for movies.Queensland Rail has improved accessibility on the Spirit of Queensland. This journey from Brisbane to Cairns over 25 hours can accommodate most types of power wheelchairs or mobility scooters. Seating car E has three wheelchair spaces, with four additional accessible seats for people who transfer to a seat. It also has an accessible toilet and shower compartment. There is captioning on messages and selected movies as well as hearing loops. Nice contrasting of colours on seats and flooring, plus Braille and tactile signage. 

The Queensland Rail website has a lot more information about accessibility on the Spirit of Queensland and there is a factsheet. The Tilt Train from Brisbane to Rockhampton has similar facilities.Other trains have narrow doors and aisles which makes access difficult. There is no information about toilets on these trains. It will be a great day when all rolling stock is inclusive.  

Editor’s note: I found it difficult to navigate the website to find the relevant information for this post. 

Photo from Queensland Rail website. 

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Can everyone benefit from ride-share systems?

Uber driver is pushing a man in a manual wheelchair into the back of the vehicle.Uber is a household name. But can everyone take advantage of ride-share systems? The Living Cities article describes five steps for growing accessible and inclusive transportation systems. There is no one solution: a range of policies and mobility options are needed for low income communities and people with disability. The Movmi blog site extends these ideas for ride-share systems and offers three key elements for inclusion. Both articles have more detail on concepts and solutions. Here are three key elements:

  1. Availability: Good access to public transportation are needed in all areas, as well as car-sharing, bike-sharing and ride-hailing services as a solution for the last mile.
  2. Inclusive design: Ensuring sharing and on demand ride-hailing services are available to people who have limited access to the internet or credit cards. This also includes reducing any physical barriers that may prevent anyone with a disability using these services.
  3. Affordability: Reduced fares and subsidized memberships will ensure everyone has the ability to use public transportation and shared mobility services.

UberWAV is a for riders who use motorised wheelchairs or scooters. Drivers are trained to help with getting in and out of the accessible vehicle. The first UberWAV in Australia was in Newcastle NSW in 2016. The article covers the different services available in the US  for people who don’t have phones and credit cards. The Every Australian Counts website has a 2015 article about UberWAV that provides another point of view.

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Report on train station access in Melbourne

Distance view of a major train station showing platforms and trains.Here is a short research paper based on three case studies of train stations in suburban Melbourne. The stations were selected on specific criteria. The results show that in spite of a policy aim of going beyond the Transport Standards to take a whole of journey approach, there is some way to go when it comes to full accessibility.  In the concluding paragraph of the Executive Summary of this working paper, Kathleen Miller writes, “It is recommended that Public Transport Victoria update the information provided through Journey Planner, and on the website, to accurately reflect the accessibility of the train stations visited. This will provide more accurate journey planning information for people in wheelchairs. If this is done across the network it will be a large step towards enabling access to the train system and increased independence for people in wheelchairs to make the decision on what journey is best suited for them”.

A nicely written report with a detailed methodology that can be used as the basis of further studies across Australia. The title is: “Does information from Public Transport Victoria’s Journey Planner align with real life accessibility for people in wheelchairs?”  

Perhaps another case of bureaucrats not actually knowing what constitutes accessibility? Sometimes it is more than “access”.

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Urban design and pedestrian safety

A person wearing a beanie and backpack stands on the footpath. There are people and cars around. It is the evening and street lights are on.Why do people ignore pedestrian crossings and jaywalk instead? Probably because crossings are placed to suit traffic flows not pedestrians. And if every step you take is painful or difficult, a short cut looks even more encouraging. John Rennie Short provides a magazine version of his academic article about how urban design in the US is killing pedestrians and cyclists. In the article he claims, “Across the nation, cyclist fatalities have increased by 25% since 2010 and pedestrian deaths have risen by a staggering 45%. More people are being killed because cities are encouraging residents to walk and bike, but their roads are still dominated by fast-moving vehicular traffic. This shifting mix can be deadly.”

The article on FastCo has a video showing how pedestrians are jaywalking across four lanes of traffic. The most worrying of all is a woman using a wheelie-walker. The article sets out the issues and proposes some solutions. Of course, we need universally designed roads, street crossings and footpaths. 

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Dangerous by Design

Two ambulance officers push a patient into the ambulance.According to Smart Growth America, pedestrian deaths are increasing while actual traffic fatalities are decreasing. So what’s happening here? According to a report, Dangerous by Design 2019, the numbers of deaths are equivalent of one jumbo jet full of people crashing every month with no survivors. And it seems the problem for walkers is getting worse. The report argues that government policies still favour high speeds for cars over safety for people. The article gives more detailed statistics for various states in the US. It would be interesting to know if this is replicated in other countries. The report was supported by AARP and the American Society of Landscape Architects. It is not clear whether population ageing is a factor.  
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Does your access map have the right colours?

A woman holds a tablet with a map on the screen, She is standing in the street.Location is everything – finding it is another.  Being able to find places easily is key to getting out and about at any age or level of capability. Online maps are becoming more sophisticated with interactive content and different layers of information. Graphics and colour are used to emphasise places and attributes. But not everyone can see certain colours. The number of people with colour vision deficiency (CVD) is growing as some people acquire it as they get older. Map Design for the Color Vision Deficient provides a background to this issue and tools for selecting the colours when designing maps. You will need institutional access for a free read.

Abstract: The golden rule of map design states that one should carefully consider both a map’s purpose and its audience. Maps designed for the general public frequently fail to consider the portion of our population with color vision impairment or color vision deficiency (CVD), known more commonly as color blindness. Recent studies indicate that over 5% of our Caucasian male population are susceptible to congenital or inherited color vision deficiency. CVD also can be acquired from chemical exposure, injury, illness, medication, and aging. With the exception of aging, little or no data exists on the number of people impaired by any of these non-congenital causes. The predominant color impairment from congenital CVD is a red-green differentiation problem, whereas blue is considered universally recognizable by the congenital group. However, recent research has revealed that as many as 20% of those studied over the age of 72 suffer from a blue-yellow defect that increases with age to nearly 50% at age 90. This acquired blue-yellow defect also is the predominant CVD for those suffering from chemical exposure. This chapter examines the effects of CVD and attempts to illustrate the impact of color choices on visually impaired audiences. It shows that the acquired CVD population is growing and suggests colors and alternatives in map design to minimize that impact. Finally, it introduces several tools that may be used in selecting appropriate colors or used to evaluate color choices when designing maps.

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Self driving cars: trust and inclusion

Self driving vehicle on the road.The race is on for designing a self driving car that everyone trusts. While this is essential, it also needs to be a car that everyone can use. Mark Wilson writes for FastCompany about his test “drive” experiences of these vehicles. Reading his detailed experiences from a universal design perspective, there is still a way to go in the overall design. The developments so far show much thought about convenience, such as your smartphone linking to the car so it knows it’s you. They are using the phone to give instructions. This is a technology that needs to be followed closely as it has the potential to improve inclusion or inadvertently cause more exclusion. A very interesting article; “The fate of self-driving cars hangs on a $7 trillion design problem“.

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Tactile ground markers vs wheelchairs: A solution?

Train platform showing wheelchair crossings across a strip of yellow tactile markers.One paper that sparked the a lot of interest at the UDHEIT conference is the thorny issue of pedestrians and wheelchair users negotiating those yellow strips of tactile markers. Tactile markers, known as Braille Blocks in Japan, cause problems for wheelchair users, pram pushers, and others with mobility difficulties. Based on research by Yoshito Dobashi in the context of public transportation, the solution seems simple. Create small breaks in the line of tactile blocks to make wheelchair and baby buggy crossing points. These crossing points are now installed in Fukuoka city and in some airports, but not yet on a national scale. Dobashi cautions that, “…improvements need to be made in response to the voices of visually disabled persons who note that the crossing points pose a hazard to them. In his latest study, Dr. Ito of the University of Yoshito Dobashi pointing to his slide at the UDHEIT conference showing wheelchair crossing points, one with a man wheeling a suitcase.Tokyo proposes a new braille block system that incorporates an improved version of braille blocks with wheelchair crossing points upon verifying its feasibility with wheelchair users and baby buggy users. As the press release of this study was published in nationwide newspapers, widespread dissemination can be expected hereafter. It is worth keeping an eye on future developments of this new system.” Good research paper by a man passionate for his topic and keen to find solutions. The title of the paper is, Re- examining the Creativity of Universal Design Initiatives in Public Spaces in Japan.  

The article is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.

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