Mobility of the Sight Impaired in Public Transport: Evidence from Two Consecutive Research Projects in Austria

Mobility of the Sight Impaired in Public Transport: Evidence from Two Consecutive Research Projects in Austria


E Fuerst, C Vogelauer, WU Vienna, AT


Sight impaired people are often mistaken to be blind; however measures for blind people do not support them in the use of public transport services. Our project (including several surveys) focuses on specific barriers, solutions and their assessment.


Personal mobility is one of the dominant factors in everyday life both for work and leisure time. However, there are many groups with restricted or poor access to mobility services. The group this paper is focusing on are sight impaired people who are regularly mistaken to exhibit the same needs and requirements as blind people. As a consequence measures taken for the latter group do not help seeing impaired people as they still rely on their eyesight while using public transport services, whereas blind people have to replace this sense.

Due to the fact that people with impaired sight have specific needs and requirements regarding their mobility, which are completely different from those of blind or unimpaired persons, it is highly indicated to put a particular focus on the research regarding the respective mobility barriers as well as supporting factors. From the transport companies' point of view this could be of considerable interest as - according to conservative estimates - there are almost 40 times more sight impaired than blind people in Austria. Taking into consideration that the measures taken for sight impaired people usually can be realised with low or even non-relevant costs at all, a proper identification of the seeing impaired as a specific target group will certainly have a positive impact on a company's revenue situation. Furthermore it has to be taken into account that not only sight impaired will experience the comfort gain caused by these measures but the entity of all passengers. These measures also support the objective commonly known as mobility4all.

In order to reveal the most fostering and most hindering factors people with sight impairments are confronted with and to collect convenient solutions, the Institute for Transport and Logistics Management of WU Vienna conducted a qualitative short-study based on interviews with persons directly concerned, their representatives, authorities and transport companies as well as on discussions in topic-related internet-fora. Problems at stops and stations, in vehicles, general mobility problems and public perception were taken into account.

As a first step the barriers detected and the related solutions proposed were rated according to their technical and financial feasibility as well as to the utility gain for the passengers concerned. It could be shown that many problems are merely resulting from a lack of awareness, empathy or insufficient staff training.

On the basis of these findings the Institute initiated the - eventually very successful - application for a large scale project. In a consortium with several scientific and economic partners it is currently conducting the project MoViH - Mobility for the seeing and hearing impaired in public transport - which is funded by the ways2go programme of the Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology. The main goals are the identification of hindering and supporting factors for sight and hearing impaired in their mobility, analysing the gap between the perception of the persons concerned and the view of the mobility providers, the development of convenient solutions to the identified problems as well as of an indicator for those solutions and, based on the latter, deriving recommendations for future guidelines and directives regarding the design of public transport services.

To reach these targets the project was separated in several work packages. Having defined the state-of-the-art, a qualitative survey among the technology and transport service providers was conducted simultaneously with a quantitative survey targeting the sight and hearing impaired. The results will then be matched in a gap analysis and assessed with the indicator. Workshops will be held to further refine the proposed solutions between the viewpoints of the passengers and representatives of technology and mobility providers.

The quantitative survey currently conducted is centred around a mobility questionnaire developed with experts in the field of seeing and hearing impairment as well as researchers. It was pretested with several sight and hearing impaired persons. The respondents were randomly sampled.

The qualitative survey among the technology and transport service providers was based on a semi-structured interview guideline which was developed by transport experts in cooperation with experts from project partners.

The results of these surveys will be the basis for the proposed article.


Association for European Transport