Innovative ideas to improve travel for disabled passengers could be made a reality thanks to government funding announced on November 3rd, 2020.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is marking Purple Tuesday by 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
- 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 continued success of 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.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "Everybody’s way of travelling has been affected by COVID-19, but none more so than 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 2-year update on its Inclusive Transport Strategy (ITS), highlighting the work delivered – including 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, 7 of which have now opened, with more to do so next year.
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.
Mike Adams OBE, Founder and Creator of Purple Tuesday, said: "The new grant represents a landmark moment in the history of accessible transport. From booking tickets on inaccessible websites to physical access issues on transport routes, journeys on public transport are disproportionately challenging for disabled people. This grant has the potential to be a step-change for disabled people’s experiences on public transport."
Keith Richards, chair of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), said: "DPTAC welcomes the new funding for research and innovation aimed at improving access to transport for disabled people. 2 years on and the ITS has produced a number of tangible improvements for many disabled people. It’s crucial to step up the pace of change. We support the various tools that have been developed to help achieve that, with the focus on encouraging more innovative thinking, recognising and supporting businesses that are leaders in accessibility and inclusion, celebrating and sharing good practice, and promoting consistent and good quality disability awareness training across transport staff at all levels."
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.
About the UK Department for Transport
The Department for Transport is a ministerial department, supported by 24 agencies and public bodies. We work with our agencies and partners to support the transport network that helps the UK’s businesses and gets people and goods travelling around the country. We plan and invest in transport infrastructure to keep the UK on the move.