Innovative ideas to improve travel for disabled passengers could be made a reality, following UK Government funding announced recently.
The Department for Transport is launching the first-of-its-kind Accessible Technology Research and Innovation Grant (A-TRIG), which will invest up to £500,000 in projects that can improve access to services or inspire more confidence to travel.
These projects could provide a range of practical solutions that remove physical barriers, make it easier to access information, automate processes or see better support for travellers.
They could include ways for visually-impaired passengers to identify the bus they want to catch, smartphone apps to report inaccessibility and track progress, or a Wayfinder-style system to plan bus journeys.
Previously, the department has funded a mobile phone app to help people with dementia use public transport to get to hospital.
The Department’s Access for All programme has now provided 200 stations with better access across Great Britain, with around 100 more to be completed by 2024 – a quarter of these in Scotland and Wales.
The Access for All programme and accessibility improvements delivered as part of other station enhancement projects, means that more than 75% of rail journeys are now through stations with step free access, compared with around 50% in 2005, according to the UK Government.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:
“Everybody’s way of travelling has been affected by Covid-19, but none more so those who are disabled. While essential in tackling the virus I know the widespread use of masks, social distancing and changed timetables has been disconcerting for people with accessibility issues.
“I want to harness the power of technology to improve accessibility for disabled people through Covid and beyond. Today’s funding will play a key role by finding new and innovative ideas and projects to break down barriers and could make a massive difference to people’s lives.”
The competition comes as the Department publishes its two-year update on its Inclusive Transport Strategy, which highlights work such as expanding Blue Badges to non-visible disabilities, launching the It’s Everyone’s Journey public awareness campaign, and funding 59 Changing Places toilets in motorway services, seven of which have now opened, with more to do so next year, the Government says.
As part of this, the Department has also launched the Inclusive Transport Leaders Scheme, and is today announcing the first companies to receive accreditation under the scheme.
Brighton and Hove Buses and Hovertravel have achieved the highest status as “Leaders”, with Network Rail and Arriva Kent and Surrey receiving “Committed” status.
The “Leaders” demonstrate best practice and can share their experience with others, while “Committed” members have demonstrated a good foundation on which to build better services for disabled passengers. More transport operators will be invited to join shortly
Transport companies are also being urged to use free disability training resources, being published shortly, to train their staff so disabled people have a consistent and positive experience regardless of transport mode, helping overcome one of the biggest barriers to confident travel along with infrastructure enhancements.
The training has been designed with the involvement of disabled people, and will help change the way staff interact with and support all passengers, according to the Department of Transport.