Smart pedestrians for smart cities?

A wide pedestrian crossing covering four lanes of trafficePedestrians who can’t see or can’t reach the pedestrian control button at traffic lights might not need to worry any more. In Edinburgh the problem has been solved with an app. No special cards (as in Hong Kong) needed to activate the pedestrian signal. And no special adaptations to the signal system either. The BBC Youtube video with captions explains how. The technology can also be used for finding the reception desk in large buildings with large open spaces. No doubt there will be other applications yet to be thought of.

Note: In the UK, people with disability prefer to be called “disabled people”.

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A Wheelie Good App

Three manual wheelchair users with their phonesGetting around a university campus is not always the easiest task for new visitors or students. For wheelchair users the task is all the more difficult usually due to uneven topography – steep slopes and lots of steps or long ramps. The University of Wollongong is piloting an App to help navigate the campus, which can then be applied to other places. Using UOW’s Wollongong campus as a pilot study, Briometrix will translate wheelchair-user-generated data into navigation routes on its Navability App, which will show the best routes for wheelchair users based on their relative ability to propel a wheelchair. Each time a user logs-on and makes a journey, the collected data will update the app ensure it reflects any changes in the built environment. Combining the location-based technology used in Google Maps and exercise monitors with new information specific to a wheelchair experience, the project has the potential to create a new understanding of life on campus and the wider world. It will be interesting to see how this evolves. 

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The road to good design

An aerial view of a winding road through a wooded area.How much design thought goes into roads and highway? Is it just left to engineers, or are other designers involved? Seems times are changing and a bit more thought is going into roads in the UK. The Design Council has an article that lists the ten principles of good road design that include words such as inclusive and sustainable. The principles were adopted at the recommendation of the Highways England Strategic Design Panel and follow the themes of people, places and processes:

  1. makes roads safe and useful
  2. is inclusive
  3. makes roads understandable
  4. fits in context
  5. is restrained
  6. is environmentally sustainable
  7. is thorough
  8. is innovative
  9. is collaborative
  10. is long-lasting

Highways England espouses lofty ideals: “We aim to put people at the heart of our work by designing an inclusive, resilient and sustainable road network; appreciated for its usefulness but also its elegance, reflecting in its design the beauty of the natural, built and historic environment through which it passes, and enhancing it where possible.”  

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What a difference a car makes

Shows a man on a modified ag bike just about to take off.Vehicle modifications allow many people with physical disability to drive their own vehicles and get on with life in the same way as non-disabled people. There are two parts to this post: an academic article by Simon Darcy on private modified vehicles, and a practical video by IDEAS showcasing the benefits of modifications for two individuals. The video, alarmingly, also shows the amount of NDIS money spent on vehicle modifications in the last few years. Time for the vehicle design industry to wake up and design better for adaption? Nicely put together video reminds everyone of what can be achieved with the right equipment and a well designed environment.

The article by Simon Darcy and Paul Francis Burke is titled, On the road again: The barriers and benefits of automobility for people with disability.  It looks at private vehicles rather than public transport. See down the page for the abstract .

Abstract: The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (PWD) has been signed by over 160 nations to achieve greater social participation, with public and private transport clearly identified as an area to improve accessibility. Whilst the majority of scholarly work has focused on public transport needs, less research has examined the barriers or benefits of access to private modified vehicles for PWD. In this exploratory study, a Delphi technique with health experts, researchers, drivers and funding agencies developed an instrument to examine the barriers and benefits of access to private modified vehicles for PWD. An online survey was completed by 287 drivers and carers to report on barriers to private modified vehicles, whilst a sub-set of 190 drivers with access to a private modified vehicle reported on experientially derived benefits. A factor analytic approach identified how financial and informational barriers vary with respect to several characteristics including disability type and level of support needs. Factors relating to independence, social and recreational benefits are perceived as more valued experientially derived benefits relative to benefits relating to employability and ability to enjoy downtime. Benefits in the form of independence are greater among drivers and owners, those with an acquired condition, less complex mobility and everyday support needs, whilst little difference emerged in terms of the social and downtime benefits. The findings inform policy development and funding opportunities to provide insight and evidence into the barriers, but also benefits and variation in private transport needs among PWD.

You will need institutional access or be a member of ResearchGate for a free read. It can be purchased from Science Direct.

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Driverless Miss Daisy

A small black and white pod shaped vehicleDriverless vehicles will soon be transporting retirement village residents around the place. IRT Group, a retirement living provider, has formed a partnership with RDM Autonomous to trial driverless vehicles in their retirement settings. This is one way to make sure older Australians aren’t left behind with technology. The trial, called Pod Zero, will be programmed to navigate private roads in the IRT communities. The pilot will also provide evaluation feedback to designers and operators. You can read more about this in the Australian Ageing Agenda article. The UK Daily Mail also has an article about this vehicle.

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Joined up Journeys

Front cover of the document with the Australian Government logo in white against a dark blue banded background and pictures of a bus ramp and yellow tgsi on station platformsThe Australian Government’s publication, The Whole Journey guide is the result of a consultation process early in 2017. This is a guide for thinking beyond compliance to create accessible public transport journeys. With over 50 pages it is comprehensive and a useful document for planners, designers, policy makers, certifiers, operators and users of public transport. The key message is that standards provide minimum requirements, but “there is a great deal more to accessibility than just compliance with the standards.” There are links to other useful documents in the publication. George Xinos writes in Sourceable that another review of Transport Standards is due soon. 

Citing the National Disability Strategy, the Guide explains universal design by referencing Audirac’s article Accessing Transit as Universal Design, (2008), which is in the context of the American’s with Disabilities Act.  

Accessible design: designing for equal useability for people with a diversity of abilities with regard to mobility, facilities, devices and services, and incorporating disability access standards.
Inclusive design: designing products and services for the needs of the widest possible audience, irrespective of age or ability.
User-centred design: placing users’ perspectives and needs at the centre of the design process
Barrier-free design: constructing or retro-fitting infrastructure and vehicles to eliminate barriers and obstacles that would otherwise restrict the range of users and purposes for which the space can be used
Trans-generational design: improving quality of life for people of all ages and abilities, both now and into the future
Assistive technology: engineering that enables people with a range of abilities to complete tasks by enhancing physical, sensory and cognitive abilities

Picture showing the level access from the platform into the train

Audirac’s publication is almost ten years old, but the list adds to the notion that universal design embraces diversity, and should therefore embrace diverse ways of explaining it

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Autonomous vehicles and mental health

Part of the rear of an electric powered car Previous posts have featured autonomous vehicles, and now mental health enters the discussion and research. According to the Journal of Urban Design and Mental Health, the mobility revolution is almost upon us. In just three years it is expected that fully autonomous vehicles will be on the market. So we have to start thinking about the impacts now – the NRMA thinks so too.

David Rojas-Rueda writes that autonomous vehicles offer an excellent opportunity to reshape our cities, but we need to understand how such changes can both help and perhaps hinder the mental wellbeing of the population. For example will driverless cars encourage more alcohol consumption if you no longer have worry about a breath test? Will workers be expected to use their hands-free travel time to do more work? What about physical activity? For more on this discussion read the article, Autonomous vehicles and mental health.

As a driver/road user organisation, the NRMA is embracing this change and working with it. They are updating their publications regularly. The latest one, The Future of Car Ownership gives an in-depth view and is good reading for anyone interested in cars, driving, travelling and mobility – mobility being the new word for transport. There is also an infographic if you just want the key points.

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