Partners in a ground-breaking new research centre aim to develop solutions that will close the “transport accessibility gap” faced by disabled people, with the help of £20 million in funding.
A disabled-led research organisation, the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (RiDC)*, is one of the partners, led by Coventry University, that will receive the funding to develop and run a new Evidence Centre for Inclusive Transport (ECIT).
ECIT, which is expected to launch early this year, aims to improve the accessibility and reliability of road, rail and air transport for disabled people, and transform the sector’s understanding of disabled people’s experiences of transport, through carrying out research and developing accessible transport solutions.
RiDC, which specialises in inclusive research involving disabled consumers, will play a key role in ensuring that disabled people are at the heart of the centre’s work and shape “accessible transport solutions”.
This will include developing and managing a new Community for Accessible Transport, a pan-impairment panel of disabled people which will help set the centre’s agenda by providing evidence and insight through surveys, focus groups, testing, and research design.
RiDC already has a panel of more than 3,500 disabled and older consumers, the biggest pan-impairment panel in the UK.
RiDC, Coventry University, the charity Designability, innovation accelerator Connected Places Catapult, cross-party thinktank Policy Connect and engineering consultancy WSP UK have been awarded £20 million over seven years by the charity Motability** to develop and run ECIT.
Phil Friend, RiDC’s chair, said: “RiDC has a 50-year history in improving the consumer experience of disabled people and we are thrilled to be part of this consortium.”
He said RiDC would be “objective, independent and driven by the evidence” in its work on ECIT.
He said: “Our role is to ensure that it is disabled people themselves who express what’s needed, so we avoid ‘reinventing a bad wheel’ – as one of our panel commented.
“The time is ripe, and we look forward to working on an initiative that we hope will improve the lives of the UK’s 14 million disabled people exponentially.”
Gordon McCullough, RiDC’s chief executive, said the funding would make a “substantial” difference to the organisation.
He said: “It will allow us to allocate resources over an extended period to really engage, listen to and include disabled people in gathering evidence and insights into how transport can be made more accessible.”
Research by Motability (PDF) has found that disabled people make an average of 38 per cent fewer trips than non-disabled people, with no reduction in this gap over the past decade.
Motability’s analysis shows that completely closing this gap for disabled people in the UK would deliver benefits worth about £72 billion a year.
Paul Herriotts, professor of transport design at Coventry University’s Centre for Future Transport and Cities, said: “We recognise the daily challenges still faced by disabled people in accessing transport in the UK; whilst this is a complex issue, it largely stems from today’s transport simply not being appropriate for the needs of disabled people.
“Research is needed to better understand disabled people’s lived experiences, needs, and wants in relation to transport.
“The evidence centre will house and deliver future research – with this much-needed new approach: the generous funding from Motability enables us to undertake innovative applied research that puts disabled people at the heart of the process.
“We will look to disabled people to help guide and inform our activities and to help shape the future of public and private transport in the UK.”
Barry Le Grys, Motability’s chief executive, said the organisations funded to deliver the evidence centre would “bring their wealth of experience and expertise in transport design and the experiences of disabled people to help us to create longer-term solutions in travel accessibility”.
He said: “We know that being unable to make the journeys they want or need to, has a huge impact on disabled people’s daily lives; from getting a job, to attending medical appointments, to seeing friends and family.
“While some solutions exist to help make transport accessible, the fact that the accessibility gap hasn’t improved in a decade shows that much more needs to be done.”
*More than 80 per cent of RiDC’s trustees identify as disabled people
**Motability, which oversees the company that runs the disabled people’s car scheme, is a Disability News Service subscriber
Picture: An RiDC panel member boarding a bus
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