Accessible Local Public Transport: Respecting the Needs of Sight Impaired Leads to “Visual Design for All”



Accessible Local Public Transport: Respecting the Needs of Sight Impaired Leads to “Visual Design for All”

Authors

Elmar Fuerst, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Christian Vogelaur, Vienna University of Economics and Business

Description

Accessibility should no longer be addressed to a rather small target group but rather be seen as a chance for improving usability for the entity of passengers.

Abstract

While a lot of effort is put into making public transport accessible to wheelchair users (ramps, elevators) and blind persons (tactile guidance systems), the visual design and appearance of buildings and vehicles is neglected. Unlike other aspects, (visual) accessibility is often falsely regarded rather as a “barrier for creativity” hindering designers, planners and architects than revealed as what it is in fact, namely an effective means to establish universal functionality. This is due to a lack of awareness, information and respective knowledge. In some respect, however, there is also a lack of evidence how to make things accessible, particularly taking into account that, in practice, buildings and vehicles are not only exposed to different lighting situations (times of day, seasons, weather conditions) but are also in use and therefore get dirty and shopworn. Laws, standards and guidelines, if existing at all, have not yet sufficiently referred to these problems.

Given that fact, it is of vital importance to develop and test empirical methods that allow for a scientifically sound evaluation of the visual accessibility of buildings, vehicles and public spaces. Furthermore, these methods need to convey the problems and barriers that impaired persons face in such a way that for non-impaired decisions makers it is apprehensible why certain situations need improvement.

Within the inter-disciplinary research project “ViDeA – Visual Design for All”, jointly developed by two universities and specialists in the field of optometrics as well as associations of sight impaired persons and funded by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency under the “Mobility of the future”-programme, we developed and tested a dedicated method mix, integrating visual and sound recordings with photographs of certain situations and a multi-person questionnaire to get a multi-view evaluation of such environments. The tests were run on different public transport stations in the Vienna region.

Based on the assessment of the integrated data, we were able to derive several critical elements in public transport buildings and vehicles (evenly and preferably indirect lighting, avoidance of glare and reflections, sufficient contrasts and approachability of information (like monitors on eye-level)) with their impact on sight impaired and other travelers. In addition, video recordings allow for a much more detailed evaluation of the prevailing situations. The results were furthermore used to calibrate a simulation tool that was developed in the research project in order to improve the quality of the assessment for designs of architects. Hence, it will also be much easier to communicate respective requirements towards decision makers and public transport operators.

Accessibility should no longer be addressed to a rather small target group but rather be seen as a chance for improving usability for the entity of passengers.

Publisher

Association for European Transport