Liberia: Transportation: An Accessible and Efficient Design for People Living with Disabilities
Planning a journey, knowing the waiting times is good for all individuals. Understanding where to get off, taking corrective action in the case of disruption. Using public transport requires access to information at every step along the way. The task, of course, is far more complicated for people living with a disability, whether sensory, motor, or intellectual.
Have you ever wondered about the thought or the possibility of having a visually impaired individual get across the road, travel miles from their destination without an assistant, and make stops without viewing the various stop points or being instructed adequately to the use of information before their journey?
What would you do if you were to create a change that best suits the community?
In this article on transportation, we will enlighten your thoughts on the meaning, the way forward, and what we need to do to eradicate this huge struggle we have to face.
What is Transportation?
Transportation is defined as a particular movement of an organism or thing from point A to point B. Transportation is the key to independent mobility. (Modes of transport include air, land, water, cable, pipeline, and space).
People with disabilities, including those with physical, visual, and cognitive disabilities, find it challenging to move from one point to another while trying to commune from different places throughout Liberia. For people living with disabilities, disruptions to their means of transportation can cause plenty of stress and added difficulties. That’s why such situations need to be anticipated more than for other travelers. Before embarking on means of transportation, “passenger information” must encompass all necessary information that would be clear and concise to have them transmitted to transport conductors or even passengers on board at every stage of their journey.
Passenger information can be provided in different paper or voice/sound language formats: oral or written and can be checked remotely or at bus stations and stops or even onboard vehicles. Even though such information is for all travelers, providing it to those living with a disability is far trickier yet very IMPORTANT!
How accessible is transit in Liberia and what advances can be made to improve accessibility for individuals with disabilities within the transport setting?
Travelers with disabilities need to receive the information in real-time and in an appropriate format based on their mode of communication to:
- Prepare their itinerary according to their mobility
Location of stops, transportation network accessibility, know in real-time the operating condition of adopted rules and equipment, transport fares, the usage of masks and direction to take, be informed about the next step in their journey, know what to do in the case of any service disruption due to situations beyond man’s control.
Their specific needs are complicated during irregular occurrences (breakdowns, strikes, detours, stops not served, etc.). People with hearing loss can rarely get information on disruptions since it is usually announced orally. Those with visual impairment lose their bearings and find it challenging to find an alternative itinerary. Finally, people with an intellectual disability will also have difficulty understanding the information, making decisions, and finding new reference points.
Another significant aspect is that the stress caused by disruptions to travelers is far more burdensome on disabled passengers due to their particular difficulties and their sometimes heightened sensitivity (psychiatric disability, autism).
Pre-plan trip/s with family members or other planners
For any person with a disability, preparation is key to a successful trip. In other advanced and digitized countries, trip planning has heavily relied on maps, transportation guides, and schedules jotted down on paper, and they still are essential to some people, but the digital alternatives available today have made planning far more efficient, yet, we’re still far behind of these advancements.
Transportation operators usually provide a trip planner on their website, supplemented by a mobile app. However, these trip planners should fulfill the following conditions if they are to be usable by a disabled person and respond to their needs:
- The web or phone interface must conform to digital accessibility standards (usable with a screen reader, adaptable to the user’s display settings, etc.).
- The options for the trip planner must include accessibility criteria: Crosswalks, stairs, level access, etc.;
- Bus parking and stops must be possible to locate and by their actual address, which must be entirely written out (for those who cannot read the map and so that it can be entered into a GPS).
To facilitate the mobility of everyone, all information on the transportation networks should be made public so that it can be integrated into multimodal trip planners.
Written or audio materials designed for different disabilities
Physical materials can still be of excellent service to many transportation passengers despite digital technologies. This is why it’s important to make simple maps or large-font timetables available to passengers. London, for example, has a wide variety of subway maps; they come in contrasting colors and audio formats. Some maps only show the above-ground network for those with claustrophobia. Another example is Toulouse (France), which offers an audio description of its subway stations. (https://www.tisseo.fr/se-deplacer/reseau-accessible/audiodescriptions-ligne-A)
Visual and audio traveler information points
Departures, connections, and arrivals, every step in a journey has its stop. At every stop, people need accessible public transport information.
Traveler information points are illuminated signs at bus stops, junctions, interceptions, and roadside. These signs notify passengers of the following direction path, waiting time, and possible disruptions to a line serving the stop.
But what use are these to a visually impaired person? The information points have to be in audio formats or expressed by the conductor of the used means of transportation, or possibly through remote control or a smartphone. This function has two advantages. Firstly, the on-demand audio provides illiterate people with the same information everyone else receives. Secondly, the activation of the sign by remote also allows visually impaired people to precisely locate the stop and confirm that they are where they want to be.
This solution has already been rolled out across numerous cities worldwide, such as San Francisco, Auckland, Toulouse, Lyon, and Prague.
Accessible design for transportation
In the United States, accessibility design standards and guidelines for the built environment of transport facilities considering the need of individuals with disabilities, by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, as set out in 2002. The design specifications were based on ergonomic dimensions of both adults and children and additional requirements of individuals with disabilities, such as wheelchair users. All newly constructed facilities and renovated parts of existing facilities should comply with these design specifications.
In the United Kingdom, legislation on disability discrimination was introduced to require the obligatory provision of access to buildings and facilities for individuals with disabilities in 1996. In response to this, the Department for Transport established a comprehensive guideline for designing accessible transport facilities. The requirements specified applied to the design and operation of the pedestrian environment, transport infrastructure, and public transport facilities.
In Hong Kong, a design manual specifying the design requirements for building and facility access for individuals with disabilities, according to the Disability Discrimination Ordinance 1995, was established in 2008. Again, the design manual applied to the design and construction of new buildings and alterations or additions to an existing building. In Paris, the transport operator RATP organizes Mobility Workshops. These workshops were originally aimed at passengers with intellectual disabilities, but they soon expanded to schools and have received high praise from participants.
These are great examples of accessible public transport information that you can also implement in your network to help your users. (https://www.ratp.fr/groupe-ratp/pour-nos-voyageurs/la-pedagogie-de-la-mobilite)
We can transform our community and transportation structures for individuals with disabilities by adding audio to visual information and vice versa. While the setting up of accessible digital services, the use of phone apps, and on-demand community support, which is as cardinal, are just some of the numerous local initiatives that have sprung up to open up information access to all passengers. Today's main issue remains to standardize the different sources and make the information known to everyone for nationwide growth.