18 March 2022 | Innovation | Collaboration

Inclusivity should be factored in from the beginning, or you’ll unwittingly exclude people, ITS (UK) Forum hears

The Intelligent Transport Systems industry is being reminded to be completely inclusive and remember less able members of society when developing public-facing transport technology.

At its latest Inclusive Mobility Forum meeting, ITS (UK) heard a series of examples of the challenges facing disabled people.

Gordon McCullough, CEO of the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers, explained how disabled people take 38 per cent fewer trips than non-disabled people, and this accessibility gap has not changed in a decade.

He outlined how “digital exclusion” is a major issue that transport service providers need to consider. In a recent poll of disabled people, a quarter are unable to use smartphone and tablet apps, nearly a third of people struggled to evaluate the credibility of online information, one in eight find obstacles with shopping around for products and services on the Internet and one in ten are not confident to search for information.

The technology can be difficult or hard to overcome, unless you involve and include disabled and older people right at the very beginning of thinking about a service or designing anything,” Mr McCullough explained. “It should be the most fundamental thing that you think about at the very beginning, and the way to do that is to put a process in that allows you to listen and understand disabled people’s needs and expectations.”

The meeting also heard from Patrick McDougall of longstanding ITS (UK) member Nexus Alpha. He described the company’s disabled-friendly audio and visual solutions, and how they had overcome challenges such as reliable text-to-speech for passenger information, particularly around place names.

“Delivering inclusive mobility isn’t just the right thing to do, it makes economic sense,” commented Forum Chair Kris Beuret. “We heard in the meeting how the annual economic benefit of closing the accessibility gap is more than £70 billion. Therefore, there is no reason whatsoever not to properly consider all sections of society when planning a transport product. It is clear that, if you do not consider inclusivity from the very beginning of product development, and whether you mean to or not, you will end up excluding people. That is why ITS (UK) is setting up a research project to understand more about why digital exclusion is not being addressed.”

You can read more about the ITS (UK) Inclusive Mobility Forum research project here.

The entire meeting is available to watch on the ITS (UK) YouTube channel here.

(Picture – Research Institute for Disabled Consumers)