Airports and autism

People in warm clothes push their baggage at an airport.Airports and security procedures are stressful for most of us, but for people who are autistic it can be doubly so. Vancouver airport has introduced a simulated rehearsal program to help families with the whole pre-flight process so it becomes more predictable. People who are likely to be overwhelmed by the whole process like to know beforehand what is going to happen and how it all works. This could also include people who are new to air travel, especially now that most processes are automated.

The program includes the Vancouver Airport Resource Kit, which features a step-by-step storybook, interactive checklist, airport map and tips for travel. There is also a video series that helps travellers with autism prepare for the flight. Vancouver airport has an “Autism Access Sticker” that can be placed on boarding passes. The sticker ensures a smooth transition through screening and customs. It also communicates the specific needs of passengers to airport employees. The resource was devised in conjunction with Canucks Autism Network. See the video series below. Very well done – a good model that can be applied to all airports and people with autism.

Complete Streets: Health agencies play a role

Pedestrians are walking towards the camera. They are on a wide walkway. Some people are looking at their phones. They are dressed for warm weather. There are buildings on each side of the walkwayThe Complete Streets concept is about creating a safe place for all road users regardless of their age or ability. Transport and planning agencies usually have control over road and street plans, but public health agencies also have a role to play. Along with other stakeholders, health agencies can evaluate initiatives from a health, physical activity and inclusion point of view. A report from the US gives an overview of strategies and examples of how public health agencies, advocates and practitioners were involved in planning processes.

The report, published by University of Illinois, is titled, “Public Health Engagement in Complete Streets Initiatives: Examples and Lessons Learned”, is 18 pages plus appendices. 

 

More wheelchair users are flying

Aerial view of a large airport showing seating and shops.Requests for wheelchair assistance grew 30% between 2016 and 2017 according to a recent IATA press release. Airlines and airports know they need to improve their operations as well as consider assistance for passengers who are mobile but have difficulty getting around airports.

The other issue recognised by IATA at it’s recent meeting, is the damage caused to mobility aids. Airlines are working with stakeholders to find ways to improve this. One option is to develop standard procedures related to the loading of mobility aids.  You can read more about IATA’s plans for improved air travel in their press release and download the resolutions from their recent meeting. (IATA – International Air Transport Association.)  

New app for train travellers

A train is in the station and people are on the platform waiting to get on.People who are deaf and use British Sign Language (BSL) can now get help when travelling on ScotRail.  When a deaf customer needs help, rail staff can open an app that uses video call. The customer signs to an interpreter who immediately signs back.  The InterpreterNow app will give more confidence to travellers who use BSL. The more pleasing aspect of this story is that ScotRail is showing commitment to inclusion. For people who are hard of hearing, which is a significant portion of the population, just improving the quality of announcements would be a great help – or even having announcements. 

A related app by Google, Live Transcribe, is in its early release phase.  You can download it and give feedback before the design is finalised. This could be useful in noisy situations for people who have difficulty hearing, such as train stations, busy streets and noisy cafes. These types of app often need adjustment for different accents.

Editor’s note: This is a good app for people with good hearing. I’ve downloaded the Live Transcribe app for my phone. It should help for the odd occasion when I’ve seen a deaf person in the street needing help with something. It will be better than gestures and facial expression. 

Driverless Cars and Accessibility

A small black and white pod shaped vehicleDriverless cars will be about passengers not drivers. Although a subtle difference, it focuses thought on users as passengers rather than drivers. And this is important because there will be more diversity of users than there are currently drivers. But this raises other issues.

When it comes to assistance it is usually the driver that helps riders with disabilities with getting in and out, and pointing them in the right direction. An article from Intelligent Transport Systems discusses these issues and more in a matter of fact way. Policy makers and vehicle designers need to think across all these issues.

“A “fully accessible” and “fully automated” vehicle must address challenges beyond the purview of the vehicle, extending into transportation infrastructure. For instance, for individuals with disabilities to – in practice – independently utilize an autonomous vehicle, problems associated with door-to-door wayfinding, signage, and street-side pick-up/drop-off must also be dealt with. For those who face physical barriers, such as those with mobility or vision impairments, wayfinding around obstacles in the built environment to rendezvous with vehicles or to arrive to at transit/taxi stops will still be a
challenge.”

The report concluded that because of the magnitude of this demand, there is a good case for avoiding complicated and expensive retrofitting for accessibility.

Can AI make air travel more convenient?

Inside the cabin of an aircraft, people are queuing in the aisle to take their seats Artifical Intelligence (AI) has the potential to solve some difficult problems. One of these is the many inconveniences of air travel – the security checks, waiting at the gate, and the speed at which passengers board. An interesting article on FastCo website brings us up to date with what is emerging, and what we can expect in the future for air travel. The article covers problems with boarding processes, linking ground transport with air transport, and minimising poor passenger behaviour. How this will support inclusive travel and tourism is something still to be discussed in these articles. However, often mentioned are issues of privacy, potential for abuse, and algorithms based on prevailing societal biases, such as, racism, sexism, and ageism, among others. 

Mobility as a Service

Part of the front cover of the discussion paper.Public policy on transportation is desperately trying to keep up with the technology. We are looking at a shift from personally owned vehicles to mobility consumed as a service. This already happening as younger generations are choosing ride-share systems rather than car ownership. But will future mobility services be inclusive of people regardless of income, ethnic background, age or disability? 

AARP Public Policy Institute in the US has looked closely at the issues in an attempt to stay ahead of the policy curve. Their discussion paper argues that the current disruption offers an unprecedented opportunity to expand mobility for everyone. “If implemented fully and thoughtfully, Universal Mobility as a Service has the potential to lead to a more equitable transportation system, where tens of millions of non-drivers are able to more fully participate in the economic, social and civic life of their communities”. The paper rightly points out that it can’t be universal without Universal Design from vehicle design through to customer interaction. There is a video with an overview on the main Future of Transportation page

Public transportation systems are also discussed, as well as serving rural communities and other policy issues. There is lots to digest in this comprehensive discussion paper. The title of the report is Universal Mobility as a Service: A bold vision for harnessing the opportunity of disruption.  

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.

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.

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.