Social exclusion risk if passenger information gaps remain

14 Sep 2015, 8:51 am

Failure to tackle gaps in the provision of public transport data via mobile devices could result in older and disabled people being excluded from “basic human rights of independence, mobility and social exclusion”, a report published today reveals.

Tube - AccessibilityMeeting the Needs of Older and Disabled Travellers, published by global organisation the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and ITS (UK), the Intelligent Transport Systems membership association, finds that more than 80 per cent of the over-60s would not consider using these tools.

According to the report, both older and disabled people are missing out on chances to increase independent travel due to having little or no awareness of travel information services accessible via smartphone, including freely available journey-planning websites, apps and Intelligent Transport Systems.

Uncertainty about any aspect of travel can often deter an older or disabled person from making a trip, it says. However  these digital tools provide up-to-date, user-focused information about public transport options, which could help older and disabled travellers to make better journey plans based on their individual needs.

When it comes to the role of Intelligent Transport Systems, the report highlights two main challenges. Firstly, technology does not appear in much detail in any of the relevant legislation or guidance (the Equality Act, the Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations, the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations and the Department for Transport’s Inclusive Mobility Best Practice Guide).

And secondly, the potential of services delivered to mobile devices has yet to be realised because of slow uptake by older and disabled groups.

A lack of both accessible real-time journey information and a joined-up approach to address the issues are among the gaps in Intelligent Transport Systems that remain.

Sahar Danesh, Principal Policy Advisor at the IET said in a statement that while public transport has recently undergone improvements to physical infrastructure and services, more could be done to make technology accessible to all users.

“If we can find a way to encourage older and disabled people to embrace this technology, many of them could enjoy fully independent travel instead of being housebound or relying on relatives and carers as they do today”, he said.

“The rapid growth in new technologies represents an even bigger opportunity to improve people’s experience of public transport. There are all kinds of technology solutions that could really transform the travelling experience of older and disabled people, and yet they are not being used”, said Danesh.

To begin to tackle the problem, the report suggests that industry, travel operators, Government, engineering professionals and users collaborate for a joined-up approach to ensuring that technology becomes a greater focus for developing inclusive mobility.

The report concludes: “Making the best use of technology for enhancing transport accessibility is a challenge, but one that if met, offers enormous scope to improve mobility, health, and well being, not only for disabled and older people, but for all members of society”.