Travel challenges outlined
Among the guests listening to proceedings and taking a tour of the University’s design centre were wheelchair user Alan Norton from consultant Into Independence. He described the car simulator – where a static vehicle is placed inside a wrap-around screen featuring motion graphics of a city environment – as an excellent piece of technology that could help disabled people try out driving in a safer way.
“Until public transport gets much better and modes become more integrated, the car is technically the only way I can get from the house to my destination in a safe environment,” he offered.
Another guest was Helen Dolphin from consultant Dolphin Diversity, which advises transport bodies on accessibility issues. She said rail travel has got a lot better in the last 25 years, with level-access boarding in her region proving to be a “game changer” for wheelchair users like herself taking trains. “I don’t have to book assistance; I can just turn up”. But further afield Helen sometimes finds she has to rely on station staff being on hand to help.
“Centres like this are going to have such a huge impact because they can look at transport across all the different modes and how they integrate together. Often it’s those kind of interchanges where we see the most difficulties.”
She added that by designing for disabled people, you design for everybody. “I’ve seen that in my car: all the things that started as an adaption (for disabled people) are standard now such as keyless ignitions and boots that open when you press a button. Even modern handbrakes have a button!”
Catharine Brown, the Chief Executive of Designability said her big hope is that disabled people are no longer making significantly fewer journeys than non-disabled people. “But equally, we want to give disabled people the opportunity to make sure their needs are understood,” she said, “and that solutions are considered and designed in that process”.