Better bus stops

The roadway is marked with the words "bus stop" in yellow lettering.How difficult can designing a bus stop be? Turns out there are lots of elements to consider. Bus stops are one element of an accessible and inclusive travel chain. Each country has their own format or standards for bus stops. But this doesn’t help visitors who are unfamiliar with the design and how it works. 

Accessible bus stops are more than a stop sign and perhaps a seat with a shelter. It has to fit within an accessible urban environment. Footpath materials, information and communication and street furniture all have a part to play. A bus stop outside an airport in Portugal is the subject of a case study. The researchers looked specifically at older travellers. They were able to compare bus stops back home with the one at the airport and give useful feedback and share ideas. Portugal is a favourite destination within Europe so there were many comparisons.

The results were generally consistent across the responses regardless whether the respondent had a disability. Many of the responses were fairly obvious, such as barrier-free footpaths and no obstacles around the bus stop. Shelters with seats at a suitable height and easy to read timetables rated as important. Of course, a bus stop is useless if you can’t use the bus, so low floor buses were important. 

The paper is titled, An Evaluation of the Universal Accessibility of Bus Stop Environments by Senior Tourists. It was published in the International Information and Engineering Technology Association. It is open access. See also Contributions of tourism to social inclusion of persons with disability for more about inclusive tourism in Portugal. 

Abstract: Sustainable mobility demands an integrated approach covering all modes of transport in a built environment designed for everyone. Social inclusion strategies required the improvement of transportation for people with reduced mobility. Universal accessibility has been incorporated into urban renovation processes, settlement, housing and transportation. Assessments have been made in measuring the performance of spatial indicators and usually consider technical parameters and/or user perception. In the context of accessible tourism, infrastructures and services have been adapted to be inclusive for all. Accessible built environments are required hence urban spaces, buildings, transport vehicles, information technology & communication, and services must bear in mind the approach of Age Sensitive Design. The research project Accessibility for All in Tourism focuses on bus stops designed to be age-friendly and inclusive. A questionnaire was developed for the elderly tourist aged 60+ about their perceptions of bus stop environments in their countries. Findings indicate that elderly tourists with disabilities are more critical of the existing accessibility conditions, and have a greater perception of the inclusive characteristics of bus stops. Furthermore, although older people take barrier-free spaces into account, there is some criticism around pedestrian crossings, bench design and the lack of room for wheelchair users.

Queensland Inclusive Tourism Guide

Front cover of the guide showing a man in a red shirt with his arms outstrechedWith borders opening up and people anxious for a get-away, the tourism industry is set for a boost. However, not everyone will be able to take advantage of new-found freedoms. With no international tourists likely for a while, tourism operators need to make the most of the local market. That means being more accessible and inclusive.

The introduction to the Queensland Government’s guide, Inclusive Tourism: Making your business more accessible and inclusive, begins, “This guide has been developed primarily for tourism operators, to help them:

    • increase their knowledge about the market for accessible tourism
    • develop strategies to improve the accessibility of their operation to appeal to a wider range of visitors of all abilities and ages
    • understand their legal obligations in relation to inclusive and accessible tourism.

The guide also includes information to assist people with disability in planning a holiday. Local government can use this guide to: support and promote inclusive tourism across businesses, festivals, events and public spaces; and to incorporate inclusive and accessible design into their design codes and planning guidelines. Download the guide from the link on the Queensland Government website.

See also the UTS Inclusive Tourism publication explaining the economics of inclusive tourism.

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. 

A less lonely planet with inclusive tourism

Martin Heng is in a very busy street in India. It shows donkey carts cars and bicycles with street vendors on either side.International travel is a great experience for everyone especially when operators get on board with inclusive thinking. In his latest article, Martin Heng goes beyond the rights arguments to explain the economics of inclusive travel. With a growing market of older travellers tourism and travel businesses need to step up to take advantage. Heng also picks up the issue of terminology: “accessible” makes people think of compliance for wheelchair users. But he rightly points out that wheelchair users are a small proportion of the population that has some kind of disability or chronic health condition. That’s why we should be calling it “inclusive travel”. 

Heng goes on to list the easy, cost effective things that businesses can do. And not just thinking about the building. Easy to read fonts on menus and other information materials, TVs with captioning options, and websites that provide relevant visitor information about rooms, attractions and services. The article has several pictures showing Martin in various overseas locations. The title is What is accessible travel, and why should we be talking about it? Martin Heng works for Lonely Planet as their Accessible Travel Manager. 

Image courtesy Martin Heng from his article. 

England and Scotland Guidebooks for the accessible way

A street scene. Cobbled roadway between five and six storey heritage buildings with Scottish flags flyingMany places in the U.K. offer accessible features for guests with disability. But 63 percent don’t promote the fact according to Bill Forrester in his TravAbility newsletterVisitEngland and VisitScotland have launched a website for tourism businesses to produce accessibility guides to help overcome this problem. People with disability and older people rarely travel alone – at least no more than the general population. So it is not just one person avoiding inaccessible places – it can be a whole family or travel group.

There’s good advice in Destinations for All: A guide to creating accessible destinationsIncluded in the guide are several case studies, some statistics on the number of people left out if the destination if it is not inclusive, engaging with other businesses, and dispelling myths. It even challenges the notion that heritage issues make it impossible by showcasing the Roman Baths project. This guide is informed by research and can be applied as much to a day out in Sydney or Melbourne as a two week holiday in Scotland. 

Tourism operators can use the new, free website, www.accessibilityguides.org, to produce and publish their accessibility guides. These guides should also be useful for Australian tourism operators as well. 

Comprehensive Universal Design

Indian hotel swimming pool at sunset.Comprehensive Universal Design is a concept from India. It refers to the classic principles of universal design, concepts of sustainability, and culture. It takes a “country-centric approach which considers poverty, caste, class, religion, background both rural and urban”. Weaving in cultural aspects such as poverty and religion takes universal design thinking another inclusive step forward. 

A Conceptual Framework for Barrier Free Hotels in Smart Cities covers most of the basics written in many other papers about universal design. It links it to the hotel and tourism industry and all the economic benefits that can bring. The article proposes a conceptual framework to explain.

Abstract: Cities are key for business, Job creation, and the growth of society. The Government of India planned to develop smart cities which are sustainable, inclusive and act as a reference for other aspiring cities. Smart cities in India will work on four principles such as wellbeing of habitants, equity, foresight and efficiency. Existing laws and design principles can act as a hurdle in achieving the four principles laid down. The principles of Universal Design (UD) are user centric, work on the social goals of inclusion, equality and independence. Universal Design India Principle (UDIP) is a set of design principles that focus on a country centric approach which considers culture, caste, poverty, class, and religion. There is an overwhelming need for environmentally sustainable designs for hospitality services. Considering the current requirements, a conceptual framework ‘Comprehensive Universal Design (CUD)’ has been proposed which includes principles of UD, UDIP and environmental sustainability. Adopting comprehensive universal design principles in the hotels in smart city will help the planners to realise equity, quality of life, social inclusion and environmental sustainability.

The article is by Partho Pratim Sea*P. Senthil Kumaran