Gender diversity: not code for ‘women’

A colourful graphic of five women with male and female symbols over them.
Picture Courtesy Teenvogue

When we talk of diversity we shouldn’t think of ‘left out groups’. That’s an ‘us including them’ approach. (Who is us anyway?) We should think ‘humanity’ in all its forms, colours, beliefs, sizes, ages, genders, wealth, geography, politics, and capabilities. Almost all people belong to multiple ‘left out groups’ at any one time. The term ‘diversity’ is often used in workplaces as code for people from different cultural backgrounds. But it is more than this. Likewise, gender diversity is not code for women.

Kiri Crossland’s short piece on Linked In is about gender equity in transport. She writes that focusing on the inequities between women and men serves to reinforce the gender binary. As more people become comfortable about declaring their non-binary identity, they will become more visible. Consequently, this is not an issue to ignore and we need to stop using the binary style thinking.

Crossland gives an example of how some women can feel safer on public transport with uniformed officers present. However, trans people are often the subject of negative experiences with police.  Consequently, making women feel safe is not the answer for everyone. Transport equity needs four things.

Transport equity

      1. Collect data: what kind of trips do gender non-conforming people make? How do they differ? Why?
      2. Challenge your assumptions and that of colleagues: engage with people with have a different lived experiences.
      3. Hire a gender diverse workforce: having people with lived experience to hand keeps keeps the thinking on track
      4. Support interest groups for gender equity: Crossland says she is keen to work with other queer people in the transport sector.

Crossland says, “I’m sick of reading statistics about gender and cycling uptake which only measure women cyclists. I’m sick of attending webinars about gender diversity in transport which reduce trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people to a single line at the beginning of the webinar when they mention “other identities”.

The title of the article is, “Gender diversity”​ shouldn’t be code for “women”.  ​

Everyone who thinks they belong to the “us” (not left out ) group has a responsibility to understand they have privilege and do something with it.

The Teenvogue.com website has some simple tips on How to use gender neutral words.

A universal design perspective on automated vehicles

A woman with blonde hair sits reading a magazine resting on the steering wheel of the car she is (not) driving. The road and other cars are visible through the windscreen as the photo was taken from the back seat.Whatever your thoughts about automated driving systems and vehicles, we need to make sure no-one is excluded in their design. The Sustainable Development Goals catch phrase, “Leave no-one behind”, is quite literal when it comes to transportation. However, the promise of increased mobility for everyone is yet to be realised. This is largely due to the complexities of transitioning from the current mode to the automated mode. So, a group in Sweden is taking a universal design perspective on automated vehicles to find solutions.  

Victor Malmsten Lundgren writes in a brief paper that there is limited insight into the promise of an inclusive mobility system. He reports on the Swedish group’s research where they used universal design as a guiding principle. 

A key insight is the importance of user experience. Overall accessibility is only as good as its weakest link in the journey. The researchers used the example of a wheelchair user and common tasks along the way. This revealed the many touchpoints involving different actors who need to be part of the solution. For example, the public transport provider’s role might begin and end at the bus stop without regard for the journey to it. 

The article has some technical detail but the aim of the article is to comment on the ongoing discussions. The paper concludes that there “must be continuous exploration of how automated vehicles and systems can be accessed and understood and used to the greatest extent possible”. 

The title of the paper is, Insights from a series of projects related to accessibility in an AV mobility landscape.

Abstract

Automated driving systems have the potential to provide increased mobility for groups of people previously underserved. This brief paper presents insights from a series of projects specifically targeting accessibility in a public transport landscape containing automated vehicles (AVs). The work has been carried out in close collaboration between both private, public, and academic actors as well as with interest groups promoting specific critical users. Automated driving systems must be identified as a piece of a broader travel experience where universal design and inclusion should be guiding principles.

SOS: Safe, Obvious, and Step-free

A child in a pink raincoat stands in a puddle in the footpath after the rain. Inclusive streets are safe, obvious and step-free.Safe, Obvious and Step-free choices are basic principles for inclusive places. Bridget Burdett makes the point very well in her slide presentation. When people feel unsafe or the route is too onerous, they just don’t make the trip. And that can mean a lost opportunity for exercise and socialisation. 

Bridget has distilled the issues into three words: Safe, Obvious and Step-free choices – the SOS solution. That doesn’t mean no steps. It doesn’t mean long winding ramps either. There are some good points in her short slideshow below.

Descriptions of pictures and embedded text for the 13 slides are below.

Click to access Burdett-2Walk-and-Cycle-SOS.pdf

Description of the 13 slides in the presentation

Slide 1: Title slide

Text: Safe, Obvious, Step-free: principles for inclusive places. By Bridget Burdett, MRCagney logo

Slide 2 – Text: Why inclusive access?

Quote: “If it’s too hard, and I know it’s too hard, I just stay home. I can’t risk being hurt because I’m not 100 percent to begin with.”

Our towns and cities are full of inaccessible infrastructure. This means that some peoples’ trips are more difficult, longer, more risky, and often those trips are not made if the effort is too much. MRCagney logo. 

Slide 3 – Text: SOS! Principles of inclusive access. An accessible place is safe, obvious, and has step-free choices. No images on this slide except MRCagney logo

Slide 4 – Text: Safe, obvious, step-free choices. Safe equals survivable speeds. Safe equals slow or separate. Safe includes feeling safe.

Image shows a Street view photograph of a raised pedestrian platform across a slip lane, at the intersection of Grey Street and Anzac Parade, Hamilton. Image: MRCagney logo

Slide 5 – Text: repeat of previous slide with added text: Who needs safe choices? Everyone. People who find it difficult to move, or who cannot see well or at all, are most sensitive to perceptions of safety. They make longer trips, with more effort, to avoid unsafe situations – or they stay home and sacrifice the opportunity to live their life.

Parents are also very aware of safety when thinking about letting their children walk (or cycle) by themselves. No images on this slide except MRCagney logo

Slide 6 – Text: We need to stop saying “there’s a perceived safety problem”. That statement gives smug transport engineers an out-clause. They might think “there’s not a real problem, there are no crashes…” 

People feeling unsafe is a real problem. It stops people walking. It needs to be addressed with slow, separated, obvious, step-free walking routes. No images on this slide except MRCagney logo

Slide 7 – Text: Safe, obvious, step-free choices

Obvious equals pedestrians, people on bikes and scooters, car and truck drivers have their place, or are obviously excluded. Equals digital, paper, on-street wayfinding that is visual, tactile, audible

Image shows a street view photograph of a marked footpath and zebra crossing through a car park, at The Base shopping centre in Hamilton. Image: MRCagney logo.

Slide 8 – Text: Repeat of previous slide with added text: Who needs obvious choices?

Many people find it difficult to navigate streets and places. Some examples include young children, some autistic people, some with learning disabilities, and some people who have had a stroke or other brain injury.

People who are blind or have low vision can not rely on eye contact in shared spaces. They need formal crossing points with pedestrian priority.  People who cannot read English need intuitive designs too.

Slide 9 – Text: Safe, obvious, step-free choices. Step free choices equals a safe and obvious step-free, obstacle-free route: no excessive diversions, no ‘back doors’

Image shows a street view photograph of a public plaza with steps and a ramp. The plaza is on the corner of Ward and Anglesea Streets in Hamilton. Image: MRCagney logo

Slide 10 – Repeat of previous slide with added text: Who needs step-free choices?

People who use devices with small wheels (wheelchairs, mobility scooters, children’s prams, skateboards) and people carting luggage can be stuck or can trip on routes that aren’t smooth.

People who are in pain, or who feel sick, and some pregnant women prefer smooth routes and ramps over steps and uneven surfaces. 

Slide 11 – Repeat of previous slide with different text: Note: not all infrastructure needs to be step-free! Steps are ok!

Some road crossings such as refuge islands or courtesy crossings are not obvious or safe for everyone. So long as there are SOS options between people’s origins and destinations, other infrastructure can be provided to add to people’s choices.

Slide 12 – Text: An inclusive place has safe, obvious, step-free choices

SOS in large text.  Caption: Victoria Street, Hamilton. Image shows street view of Victoria Street in Hamilton. There is a signalised pedestrian crossing with kerb-free access from the footpath to the street, and tactile paving at the edge between footpath and traffic lane.

Slide 13 – Last slide, text: Any questions or comments? Email bburdett@mrcagney.com.  LinkedIn:  BridgetBurdett

There are six photographs including people using mobility scooters, a toddler in a forest, an older couple on a pier, a group of people in a fun run, a woman with a guide dog, and some people on the footpath next to a bus. Image: MRCagney

 

Making Melbourne inclusive and accessible

A Melbourne street scene showing pedestrians and a tram.Melbourne is one of the most ‘liveable’ cities in the world and the Victorian Government wants to keep it that way. But Melbourne can’t be truly liveable if it isn’t inclusive and accessible for all. Infrastructure projects, buildings, open space, and transportation need to link together seamlessly. 

Melbourne has done some good work. Retrofitting tactile footpath indicators and Auslan-interpreted performances are a start. But steep ramps at railway stations are still a problem and Federation Square has a multitude of stairs and rough tiles. An article in the Smart Cities Library says that developers are not on the same page as the Victorian Government. 

Front cover of the report.A report from the University of Melbourne looks at some of the issues for people with disability. Academics worked with City of Melbourne staff and disability advocates to brainstorm ideas that would work. They assessed these ideas to see which were the most important and feasible.

Transportation was the key issue across all disability types, and issues with footpaths were high on the list. This links with another report about Victoria’s Public Transport Journey Planner.

Transportation is key

 Victoria’s Public Transport Journey Planner enables travellers to plan ahead for their journey. But does it work for wheelchair users? 

Distance view of a major train station showing platforms and trains.Three case studies of train stations in suburban Melbourne 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. 

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”.

Front cover Transport Strategy 2030Melbourne published their Transport Strategy 2030 which has updated information. There’s a lot about bikes but not much about inclusion and accessibility.

 

Transportation: You get what you measure

New housing development showing narrow footpath and nature strip.
Street with footpath in a new development

It’s often said you get what you measure, so if you don’t measure, what to do you get? We talk about inclusion and inclusive cities but how will we know if they are inclusive if we don’t measure it? Transportation is an important part of a functioning city. So inclusive and accessible transport systems are a must. 

Bridget Burdett’s article in Linked In discusses the issue in plain language. She points out that transport professionals measure lots of things to do with road safety. That’s because they can measure the number of lives saved and accidents prevented. But “when it comes to accessibility though, we don’t measure any outcomes”. 

Cars on a two lane highway. You get what you measure.
Road accidents get measured

Burdett’ asked 175 transport planners and engineers what they thought would improve accessibility. As is often the case, the answers were about the responsibilities of others. Most often mentioned were political leadership and stronger legislation. Some thought that cost was preventing better accessibility, but overall, they couldn’t answer the question.

Time to measure exclusion – who is not using transportation systems. The title of the article is, How will we know we have inclusive cities if we don’t measure anything? It’s a short version of her journal article, Inclusive Access in Transport Policy and Views of New Zealand Transport Practitioners

Key points

    • Transport professionals (N = 175) in Aotearoa/NZ completed a web survey.
    • Analyses suggest that inclusive access is a complex issue for transport professionals.
    • Perspectives varied on why it is not more prominent in transport policy, or why outcomes are not better for older and disabled people using transport.
    • Inclusive access is vaguely defined and poorly measured in transport.
    • Transport policy needs measures that link policy and design choices to outcomes.

Barriers in a public transport journey

A young woman is ready to alight a bus in Auckland. When people talk about transport they first think of cars, buses and trains. But the key component linking all of these are footpaths. They are essential for people using mobility devices and people with vision impairment. But having a footpath is only one of the barriers in a public transport journey for people with disability. 

Hazard-free footpaths without obstacles are essential for people with mobility devices and people with vision impairment. This was one finding in a study of 32 participants with either reduced mobility or vision impairment. The whole journey study compared the barriers for different disability types.

The participants in the study were independent users of public transport. Their trips were mainly for work or education. The barriers fell into two categories: built environment and the public transport service.

There were several problems with buses including driver attitudes making things worse. Trains were not so problematic as stations were generally accessible. 

The research paper provides more information about the barriers, and the experiences of the participants. The top three issues were bus driver attitudes, poor presentation of information, and footpath obstructions. 

The title of the paper is, Investigating the barriers in a typical journey by public transport users with disabilities.  It was published in the Journal of Transport & Health.

From the abstract:

The study investigated the barriers in a typical journey chain and provides the similarities and differences in the key barriers perceived by people with physical and visual impairments.

Participants volunteered from cities in New Zealand. A semi-structured interview was conducted with a sample of people with disabilities. Bus driver’s attitude and unawareness of disabled users’ needs was a common concern for both groups.

The main barriers for physically impaired users were terminals and stops, services, and quality of footpaths. The main barriers for visually impaired users were poor presentation of information, and obstructions on footpaths.

The study provides recommendations for policy makers. Future research studies are encouraged to adopt the accessible journey chain when investigating barriers to riding public transport.

Front cover of the report. shows people boarding a tramOther transportation resources on this website are:

 

Transport innovation: more of the same?

Front cover of AHURI report on urban transportation.
Front cover of the report

There’s a long gap between new ideas in transportation and when passengers get to experience them. And there are lots of stakeholders within transport systems. Regulators, designers, manufacturers, policy-makers, local and state governments and let’s not forget the travelling public. With so many stakeholders and things to think about, accessibility and inclusion could get missed. So will transport innovation be more of the same?

Apart from interstate trains and buses, public transportation systems are the responsibility of each state and territory. This poses issues of inconsistency, particularly in relation to accessibility. The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) recommends greater coordination and national goals for future transport systems. It’s good to see accessibility and inclusion in the mix. 

Different stakeholders want different things

    • Regulators want to see reduced emissions and congestion, increased efficiency, and greater accessibility and social equity.
    • Transport providers want greater efficiency, capacity and market share. 
    • Passengers was increased usefulness, accessibility, inclusivity, comfort, convenience and safety. Then they want reduced price.

Innovation is in the eye of the beholder. The drivers for innovation were identified as, social and environmental, what passengers want, resource constraints, regulatory gaps and political imperatives.

The AHURI research reviews international practice in the context of Australian conditions. Policy discussion in Australia has not moved on from practices set in the late 1990s. Innovation is about emerging modes of transport. These include trying to lessen car dependency by improving public transport, and integrating transport nodes with activity centres. 

The research paper goes on to discuss policy development options, issues for institutions, policy gaps and opportunities, and the role of the state in transport innovation. 

The title of the report is, “Innovative responses to urban transportation: current practice in Australian cities” There are two documents – the 12 page executive summary and the 130 page full report. 

The research questions

Four research questions guided the approach:

1. How are large-scale processes of technological, economic, social and environmental change affecting travel patterns and transport systems in Australian cities?

2. What strategic approaches to configuring infrastructure, technology, regulation and design are Australian metropolitan transport programs and policies adopting?

3. How do Australian metropolitan transport programs and policies compare to relevant international examples in terms of strategic approaches to technological, economic, social and environmental changes?

4. What forward positions should Australian metropolitan transport programs and policies consider in response to drivers of major transport system change and what further research is needed to inform this positioning?

Measure exclusion to get inclusive transport

People walking on a wide pedestrian crossing. They are blurred as if they are walking quickly. Measure exclusion to get inclusive transport.It’s easy to measure the things we can see, but not so easy to measure the things we can’t see. So how do you measure the people who don’t use public transport? And how then can you measure why they don’t? When it comes to travellers with disability we have to measure exclusion to get inclusive transport. But how can we do this?

Bridget Burdett has some thoughts on this thorny issue. In a Linked In article she poses a ‘hierarchy of response’: reactive advocacy, consultative planning and proactive inclusion. 

A graphic showing the hierarchy of response.
Hierarchy of response. Bridget Burdett

Reactive advocacy is when people with disability demand  accessible transport. This is usually when things are really obvious. Some changes are made, such as adding a ramp, and then the fuss dies down, but not much else changes. 

Consultative planning involves asking people with disability what they need. Disability advocacy groups are invited to give their stories and opinions. Similarly to putting in a ramp, it makes decision-makers feel they are doing a good job.

Proactive inclusion is where transport planners understand and measure the problem. Of course, it still requires advocacy and consultation. 

Burdett explains how to measure exclusion based on the number of mobility aids present in the community.

The title of the article is, Until we measure exclusion we won’t get inclusive transport. Bridget Burdett is a transport planner and chair of the Transportation Group New Zealand. There are links to Bridget’s case studies on transport and disability.

There are more posts on transportation in the Transportation Special Summer edition of the CUDA newsletter. 

Universal design approach to transportation

Train station entry hall in China.Much of our transportation infrastructure was designed last century when the focus was on getting people to work and school. People with disability were not considered as part of the working or school populations at that time. But times have changed and “average” must evolve to “inclusive” because there is no such thing as the average user. The time has come for a universal design approach to transportation. That includes footpaths.

A magazine article on inclusive transit systems suggests one way to think about the transit system is to recall an experience in another country. Was it easy to use? Did you feel you could confidently and independently navigate your way to your destination? How was buying a ticket? If you got confused, potentially, new users will be confused at home too. These are good benchmarks for home country design. 

The article discusses the Transit Universal Design Guidelines (TUDG).  It promotes the value of implementing a universal design approach that supports all user groups. And it doesn’t start and end at the station door. The environment leading up to the transit system must be part of the plan. The article picks out three key elements.

Key elements

User Groups: consider who you are ultimately designing for. This section includes accommodations required to satisfy the needs of specific user groups — including individuals with visual, hearing, speech, or mobility disabilities and needs, among others.

Aspects of Accommodation: identify features and techniques that can enhance the end user experience — from handrails, to hearing assistant systems, to tactile pathways, to mobile ticketing apps.

Implementation: understand the process and approach for implementing universal design through advocacy, engagement, and evaluating and finalizing design options. With this approach, transit agencies can attract new and retain existing ridership and provide solutions that are inclusive and universal from the start.

Passengers wheel their baggage on the train station platform. A very fast train is in the backgound.The title of the article is, Designing More Inclusive, Accessible Transit Systems for All

For more information on accessible and inclusive transit systems and transportation, check out the the Transportation section of this website. 

Automated driverless vehicles: Where are we?

Graphic of a little red car depicting an automated driverless vehicle.A good question to ask about automated driverless vehicles – where are we? Five years ago there was much talk about how automated driverless vehicles would change the way we get around. While the promise is still there in terms of technology, we are still a long way from regulation and planning. That means accessible self-driving vehicles are a long way off.

An article in The Conversation explains the six levels of automation from driver assistance to full automation. Many new cars have a level of driver assistance such as keeping the car in lane, and speed control. But they require the driver to take over if necessary.

Regulators are struggling to keep pace. They need to come up with standard tests for safety and benchmarking their algorithms. The public is unsure about automation, but can see advantages especially for those who cannot currently drive. 

What do drivers think?

A yellow automated driverless vehicle is parked by the footpath.
Automated driverless vehicle

What do people really think about autonomous vehicles? A survey found two main types of response: one cognitive and one emotional. Overall there is a general acceptance of autonomous vehicles – the cognitive response. However, concerns were expressed over safety, trust and control – the emotional responses.

Negative views held by a few tended to be based on emotional factors. The key point is that assumed resistance factors, such as those relating to ethics, hacking and liability, are not top of mind in the community. This means education and information can be better tailored with this information in mind. 

The title of the article is, Dimensions of attitudes to autonomous vehicles.  Published in Urban, Planning and Transport Research, it is open access.

It will be about passengers

A small black and white pod shaped automated driverless vehicle.Driverless 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 accessibility and other issues which are discussed in two papers.

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. A report from Intelligent Transport Systems discusses these issues in a matter of fact way. Policy makers and vehicle designers need to think across all these issues. The title of the report is, Driverless Cars and Accessibility

David Williams in his article alerts us to the size and influence of tech giants and how they can utilise the data they can collect. His concern is for high-tech companies manipulating and controlling our lives further. He provides a table of vehicle enhancements and the time it took or is taking for the market to fully embrace them. The title of the article is, Driverless cars: benefit to humanity or road to an Orwellian dystopia?

What about trust?

Automated driverless 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“.