Ensuring Access for All

World Summit for Accessible Tourism session puts focus on how public transportation can be improved.

By Boardroom editors

Inclusiveness has taken center stage in the events industry with the goal of ensuring that all attendees have the same experience.

Key to creating such an experience for attendees with reduced mobility and other limitations is public transportation. And at the recent World Summit for Accessible Tourism — Destinations for All in Brussels, UITP (Union Internationale des Transports Publics) shared some of the innovations and best practices aimed at improving public transportation from a local level up.

UITP Secretary General Mohamed Mezghani moderated a session at last month’s summit featuring four speakers from transport companies and government entities who are seeking to make public transportation more accessible. They discussed concerns covered in a report by UITP research partner the FAIR Stations project titled “User Needs and Expectations of the General Public and PRMs.”

After conducting research using customer surveys, focus groups, and train station video footage, the project highlighted issues including crowd flow during peak traffic hour, the commercialization of railway station space, and baggage problems like having to lift a heavy bag while getting on or off public transit (which may be more of a concern for these passengers than ticket price or travel time). Through this project, FAIR Stations plans to offer ways to enhance station design — including security and signage — and offer solutions for platform train interface and train door access to make the journey a smoother one for those with reduced mobility.

“While in some cases hard work on the infrastructure is required to ensure smooth flow of all passengers, in other cases alternative solutions, including door-to-door services, will be the most efficient way of spending public money for the benefits of all passengers,” Anne-Laure Le Merre, a consultant on regional and suburban rail at UITP, said during the session.

In Austria, Vienna’s public transport network, Wiener Linien (WL), has focused on barrier-free mobility to make travel flexible and safe for people with hearing, visual, or mobility limitations. According to UITP, Vienna has become a “pioneer” in Europe by making all underground stations — and 95 percent of tram and bus stops — “barrier-free” thanks to ramps and lifts. Ultra-low-floor trams comprise 307 of the city’s 514 trams, and their departure times are highlighted on digital displays at tram stops. WL has also made apps more user-friendly, working with the Austrian Association in Support of the Blind and Visually Impaired to add a screen reader that not only reads sections of the app out loud, but also features a departure time monitor, making it easier for visually impaired travelers to navigate the city and public transport.

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