Accessibility up in the air

Website header for All Wheels Up - mid blue background with orange graphic of a plane with a wheelchair symbol and the words in white, we want accessible planesIf we are working towards accessible tourism – destinations for all – then airlines have to come to the party on this. Airline online magazine has an interesting article about accommodating wheelchair users better. Yes there are many horror stories about air travel, but coming up with solutions is another matter. All Wheels Up  is an organisation that advocates for accessible air travel and is now working with a crash testing team. But it is not all about wheelchair users – as we know there are many other airline users who find air travel difficult. The article tells the story of a child who has many supports on his wheelchair, but has to sit in a regular seat without these important supports for his head and body. Wouldn’t it be good if he could stay in his wheelchair which could be secured by tie-downs similar to that in wheelchair accessible taxis? See the video below and more from All Wheels Up website.

 

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National Land Transport: 2017-2040

Front cover showing a man wearing glasses and a beanie and holding a smartphone The National Transport Commission of Australia has released a slide show document, Land Transport Regulation 2040: Enabling next generation mobilityIt asks the question, How could or should we regulate land transport in the future? A good question given that advances in technology mean we could all be potential users of driverless, autonomous vehicles in the very near future. So the document proceeds to answer the question. It discusses why regulation is needed and then goes on to discuss four plausible futures using scenario analysis. As a slide show of their report, it captures the key points succinctly and clearly. The graphics add a nice touch.An explanatory graphic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The report is also featured in an article on a Singapore website which provides a nice overview. You can also download the full report from this website.

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Automated, Driverless Cars – a new horizon

graphic of a square car approaching a pedestrian crossing with a person pushing a stroller on the footpathFrom the Editor: I recently attended a workshop jointly held by Transport for NSW, NRMA and the Committee for Sydney. The half day session encouraged us to think 40 years ahead in terms of planning for transportation, particularly automated and WiFi connected vehicles. All seems too sci-fi? Think again. Sitting with experts in the field of vehicle automated technology and transport planning, it was a real eye-opener. Just think what driverless cars will mean for people who cannot currently drive or no longer have a licence. It can mean a whole new world for people with disability – but we have to make sure everything is universally designed – inclusive of everyone.

Discussions revolved around several issues, some positive, some negative. If you can dial up a car to come to your doorstep via your mobile phone any time you need it, you won’t need to buy a car. That frees up your money to be spent elsewhere in the economy. But what if this brave new world means that people give up walking – what will that mean for active travel and the associated health benefits? The design of cars will no doubt change – a box-shape on four wheels will do the job – maybe cars for one person will be quite small and others could be large enough to carry the footy team. graphic of a car, a truck and a section of roadHuman error is the major factor in road accidents. Think how much health money and personal distress could be saved if we reduced the road toll to virtually nil. And could the savings in health costs offset the reduced income from road taxes, and when we go fully electric, fuel excise and taxes?

There were many other discussion points, but I was left with one lasting impression: Automated and connected vehicles are on their way and here to stay. Semi automated vehicles are already here – self parking, cruise control and automated braking, automatic wipers and headlights, and sensors that can tell if the driver is feeling drowsy. We already have automatic pilot on aircraft, agricultural and mining vehicles, and warehouse forklifts and dockside loaders that all operate without human intervention. So if you thought it was just talk, think again.  More importantly, think what it might mean for the universal design of vehicles, transport policy and transport planning. It all needs to be inclusive – everyone has to benefit.

Incidentally, Intelligent Transport Systems Australia is holding a free networking event in Sydney on 4 July.  To find out more about what Transport for NSW is doing on this topic – go to their dedicated website future.transport.nsw.gov.au. There are surveys for community members and business – so you can have your say.

Jane Bringolf, Editor

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NSW Transport Challenge

graphic of a square car approaching a pedestrian crossing with a person pushing a stroller on the footpathTransport for NSW is developing its Future Transport Strategy – looking ahead for the next 20-40 years to plan the future of transport in NSW. Individuals and businesses throughout Regional NSW are invited to complete a survey.

People living in regional towns, centres and cities, can complete the Connecting Rural and Regional Customers SurveyIf you are involved in a small to medium sized regional business, complete the Business Survey

There will be another survey for Sydney, Hunter, Illawarra and Central Coast residents and businesses soon. You can sign up to receive the next round of surveys.  Great opportunity for everyone to have their say and to make transport available and accessible to everyone. 

There is another section to their website that gets you to think about how electric vehicles, driverless cars and digital technology and smart systems might change things. graphic of a car, a truck and a section of road

 

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It’s about the whole journey

Picture showing the level access from the platform into the trainThe NSW Government recently ran a two-day event, Live, Work and Play: NSW State of Inclusion Conference. Fellow Director, Nick Loder, attended and has written an overview of the talk by Gail Le Bransky from Transport for NSW: “Moving beyond rights based legislation: People with disability as mainstream customers.” Read on for the key points and the link to the Australian Government’s guide on this topic. This guide is the result of a consultation process.

Key points from Gail’s talk:

  • The Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Transport Standards) recognised that prior to the introduction of the Transport Standards – “there was no focused effort to remove discrimination from Australia’s public transport systems (including aircraft, buses and coaches, ferries, taxis, trains, trams, light rail, motor rail, rack railways, and other rolling stock (including vehicles and vessels classified as public transport in the Transport Standards).
  • Thus the Transport Standards aimed to provide certainty of DDA responsibilities but importantly a focus on a customers, liveable communities and the uptake of new technologies.
  • Transport for NSW access upgrades requires local council co-ordination, Apps and real time information to give people with disability information about accessible routes and transport, starting from the home.
  • The problem identified with access standards for transport in her view was they were too prescriptive, cobbled together from other standards, with no understanding about transport related issues, and significantly strove for minimums, not excellence.
  • The take home message from Gail was that accessible transport is an enabler, promoting age-friendly cities, with walking as an ingredient, hence the need to look at the whole journey, requiring quality footpaths, kerb crossings, pedestrianisation.
  • The technological revolution is here, and Transport for NSW is embracing this as ‘Packaged Mobility’, recognising that some transport options are out of the financial reach of many in the community.

picture of two Sydney buses side by side waiting at traffic lights.A terrific document referenced by Gail was the Australian Government’s consultation paper The Whole Journey – a guide for thinking beyond compliance to create accessible public transport journeys.”   

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Accessible transport paves the way for increased social inclusion

Street with footpath in a new developmentSze and Christensen’s study on accessible transportation compares transport access standards in USA, UK, and Hong Kong. According to the authors, minimum requirements are supplemented with criteria for desired requirements in all three access standards. This study provides technical information, dimensions and design improvements as well as discussion and conclusions. One interesting finding is that improved accessibility not only saved travel time, it also encouraged more social activity, particularly in older people. This was the case even where they had significant health issues. Accessibility is also associated with safety and this could have a significant effect on travel behaviour. It would seem that transportation planners should commence their planning with accessibility for people with disability in mind – that way they can be sure the benefits will apply to everyone. The article can be accessed online or by downloading the PDF version. 

Shows the street of a new housing development with driveways for cars but no footpath for peopleEditor’s Note: I recently attended a symposium on healthy built environments and transportation was a major part of the discussion. However, the conversation was largely about encouraging cycling and reducing road use by private vehicles. The focus for public transport was on working age people. Footpaths did not rate a mention until I raised it. I was told that footpaths on both sides of the street were not economically viable and that before laying a footpath a study should be done on how much use it might get. Studies have shown that lack of good and even footpaths are a major reason older people will choose to take the car for all trips. Yet the people with the most time to undertake incidental and social walking are older people as well as non-working parents with prams and people with disability.

From the Abstract:

Safe, efficient and accessible transportation is a key component of community integration. This study attempts to review the current practices and guidelines for accessible design of transportation, both access to and within transport facilities, based on the information from the United States, United Kingdom, and Hong Kong. Besides, the effects of accessible design of transportation on perceived level of service, accessibility, safety and travel behavior would be examined. Therefore, good practices of accessible design that could address the needs for all, especially the elderly and individuals with different types of disability including visual impairment, hearing difficulty and reduced mobility, could be recommended. Hence, quality of life of vulnerable group can be enhanced, and community integration will be achieved in the long run.

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Accessible Transport: The economics

Aerial view of a railway line, main roads and suburban streetsTransport is not usually something we do for its own sake. We use transport in one form or another to achieve something else, such as shopping, going to work or school, or for social activities. It is the glue that holds together the many activities people undertake in their daily lives. But not all transport systems and facilities are accessible to everyone. Inaccessible transport can be a major barrier to participation in social and civic life, and this has a knock-on effect for the economy. And it is not all about users of mobility devices. 

A discussion paper from New Zealand recognises that some disabilities are invisible, “… given that arguably everyone is a beneficiary of universal design some of the time; that many factors influencing participation are invisible, such as mental illness or hearing difficulty, for example; if an observational measurement method is going to be used, then it must necessarily involve a proxy measure for ‘beneficiary of universal design’.”

This is an encouraging approach because many studies measure ability and disability of individuals at one point in time, and not across the lifespan. The paper includes a road crossing case study from Hamilton in New Zealand. It concludes with the need for mutual understanding between those who plan and build transport and those that use it. The discussion paper on estimating the costs and benefits of participation was prepared by the Roundtable on Economics of Accessible Transport, part of the OECD International Transport Forum.

International transport forum logoThe OECD website has an iLibrary of discussion papers for this Forum. Filtering for “accessibility” brings up several papers, many of them recent.   

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