New transport solutions and technology should be geared strongly towards making life easier for people with mobility issues.
That’s according to the government’s mobility minister, who said that older people and people with disabilities sometimes face “unacceptable barriers” to travel.
Speaking at a launch event for a self-driving car project in Bristol aimed at improving the mobility of older and disabled people (pictured), mobility minister Jesse Norman said that new tech has the potential to revolutionise everyday journeys.Story continues below
In its mobility strategy that launched in March, the government declared that transport innovations must be accessible by design in order to empower independent travel, in line with the 2018 Inclusive Transport Strategy.
The trend towards ride-sharing, for example, will need to cater for wheelchair and mobility scooter users, as well as those who might not feel comfortable sharing with strangers due to mental health or developmental conditions.
Ms Norman said: “Self-driving technologies could greatly improve the mobility of vulnerable user groups, helping to address problems of isolation and loneliness across the country.
“The needs of older people, and those with visible or hidden disabilities, must be at the heart of all new modes of transport.”
Ruth Owen OBE, chief executive of equipment charity Whizz-Kidz, said that young wheelchair users often speak about how challenging travelling can sometimes be.
“It’s pointless booking a train ticket to go to work or attend a job interview if the right ramp isn’t available to get their wheelchair on the train,” she said.
“Improving accessibility is vital for the companies developing transport in the future if young disabled people are to be included and have access to the travel opportunities many others take for granted.”
Rob Burley, director of campaigns, care and support at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “When public transport is inaccessible, it takes away the independence of people living with disabilities.
“We regularly hear stories about people’s terrible experiences, such as being turned away by bus drivers or missing their stop on the train because no one is around to assist. It’s not acceptable.