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Making progress on public transport accessibility

EU-funded research projects, including 'Mediate' and 'Access2All' are finding new ways to get the disabled, elderly and other 'transport vulnerable' citizens into the public transport system. In doing so, they are making it easier for everyone to enjoy more efficient mobility.

London underground © Peter Gutierrez
London hosts transport
accessibility projects
© Peter Gutierrez

"We are bringing together the experiences of the whole range of users," says  CERTH/HITexternal link 's Evangelos Bekiaris, coordinator of the Mediate project. "This includes the disabled but also the perfectly able-bodied." Mediateexternal link's aim is to establish a common European methodology for measuring accessibility to public transport and to identify 'good practices'. "We can call them 'good practices' or 'best practices', but we are also concerned with 'worst practices'," Bekiaris admits. "The point is that all of us can do better by coming together and comparing, exchanging ideas."

Unique problems and solutions

Meanwhile, the Access2Allexternal link project is working to deliver guidelines and policy recommendations based on a wide-ranging assessment of work towards accessibility across Europe. Project coordinator Tone Øderud of Norway's  SINTEFexternal link says it's important to consider the unique problems faced by cities in different regions. "In my country we have to deal with icy conditions and even problems related to local vegetation, like tree leaves making it difficult to navigate tramway stops."

Tone Øderud © Peter Gutierrez
Tone Øderud
© Peter Gutierrez

At a joint conference in London in November 2010, the Mediate and Access2All projects brought together public mobility players from cities across Europe. London's Deputy Mayor Richard Barnes reminded the participants of the all-encompassing nature of the challenge. "This is about blind people and the hard of hearing, about elderly citizens who may have trouble walking and people in wheelchairs, but it is also about the mother with two kids in a buggy and the Christmas shopper with a load of bags to carry home."

Political will

Member of the European Parliament and Vice Chair of the Human Rights Subcommittee Richard Howitt affirmed, "The political will to see better access to public transport is there, and not just at the European level." Here, he referenced progress on the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

What is the CRPD?

Parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilitiesexternal link are required to promote, protect, and ensure the full enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities and ensure that they enjoy full equality under the law. Following ratification by the 20th party, the CRPD came into force on 3 May 2008. As of September 2010, it had 147 signatories and 94 parties.

Representing the European Commission, Patrick Mercier-Handisyde agreed with Howitt. He outlined a series of EU-funded programmes aimed at improving public transport. "Accessibility remains a clear priority for us, and we will continue to provide support for the work of important initiatives like Mediate and Access2All."

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