When universal design isn’t enough

An orange tram is arriving at the light rail station.Norway, with its policy and strategies for universal design, has one of the best accessible transport systems. But physical access is not enough to encourage many non-users to catch the bus or train. So is there a limit to the level of accessibility that should be rolled out? There will always be people with disability and without disability who will never use public transport. So the measure of success isn’t getting more patronage from people with disability; it’s about maintaining current patronage and that of new travellers in the future – with and without disability.

Designing a more convenient, easy to use system is good for everyone, now and in the future. A good all round experience can encourage people to leave the car at home. That is, if the transportation takes them to where they want to go efficiently and effectively. 

The title of the paper is, Public transport and people with disabilities – the experiences of non-users.

Here is an excerpt from the conclusion: Lastly, our study raises the question of whether universal design or accessibility for all is a good policy objective in public transport. Many of our informants are unable to travel by public transport, even though the system is among the most universally designed available. They would not be able to travel by public transport even if implementation of the measures which constitute universal design today was close to perfect. We write this, not to deny that a good universally designed public transport system is an attractive solution, it will help many, but that there will still be some who will not be reached through the universal design agenda. Therefore, there will still be a need for individual solutions, which could increase the individual’s sense of freedom, participation in working life and value added in society among those who do not have physical and/or mental premises for travelling by public transport.

A related project is the Bergen Light Rail system.