Category Archives: Accessibility

From specific campaigns on accessible stadia and accessible transport to a broader commitment to the principle of accessibility, Chris feels passionately that ensuring access for all must be the “golden thread” that runs through everything.

Bus open data: a data revolution but an accessibility fail

Ministers are completing the legal groundwork for the Bus Open Data Service (BODS), paving the way for new powers by the end of the year to ensure operators disclose data on fares, timetables and locations. Lord Holmes objects to the fact that accessibility data will not also be included.

The regulations would provide new legislation to require bus operators of local bus services across England, but outside London, to openly publish data electronically about their services through legally mandated data standards.

The move is designed to boost passenger numbers and support travel app development and follows Transport for London’s successful open data strategy and Transport for the West Midlands’s investment in providing a single data source for apps and journey planners across the region.

In London it is estimated that Citymapper and the Bus Times app had together delivered economic benefits of between £90m and £130m a year from travel time savings.

It has been over a year since the Bus Services Act was in the Lords at which time Lord Holmes raised the fact that there was no requirement for operators to provide accessibility data for vehicles or bus stops with ministers.

Despite these concerns, the Department for Transport failed to make such provision in the regulations and has even refused to provide a timeline for the when operators might be obliged to provide this data. Lord Holmes said:

‘It’s an extraordinary position that we find ourselves in. Over a year after we were told it’s not the right time to do this, again we see accessibility treated as a nice-to-have option or even an irritant rather than an essential element and an economic driver.

‘Everyone benefits from this having this. It is not an inordinate cost and burden. It’s not seen as an imperative for all concerned.

‘This information has significant economic and psychological benefits, it will help with rebuilding the economy and rebuilding communities by helping social ills such as isolation. There is nothing that is not positive and inclusive in this.’

The DfT has always maintained that requiring the disability data was too much of a burden for operators. However, this argument was dismissed by Lord Holmes.

‘This is just a deeply disappointing and avoidable mistake. This is not the hard stuff. The data is known. The specification for every vehicle on the road is known and it can be applied to the routes. It should have been seen as a positive step for all concerned.’

Bus Open Data: A data revolution but an accessibility fail, Transport Network, 8 July 2020

Bus accessibility fail is open to legal challenge, peer warns, Transport Network, 27 July 2020

Disability taxi access to Bank Junction is not a luxury but a necessity, Taxi Point, 3 July

GDI Hub launches disability innovation challenge: enable makeathon 2.0

Chris standing at lectern and addressing room full of people.
Chris Chris speaking at the launch of Disability Innovation Challenge in the House of Lords, December 4th 2017

Chris is Chair of the Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub) a London 2012 legacy project based at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The GDI Hub is partnered with UCL to promote collaboration between government, academics, entrepreneurs, local communities and NGOs to promote accessibility and inclusion and remove barriers faced by disabled people.

Today, (4th December) the day after the UN International Day of Disabled People, the Secretary of State for International Development, Penny Mordaunt, and the new Minister for Disabled People, Sarah Newton MP, joined GDI Hub at an event in Parliament to launch the Enable Makeathon 2.0.  Teams from around the world will come to London to design new disability innovation products and services. The international, collaborative nature of the Makeathon makes it a unique social movement, events are taking place simultaneously in Bangalore and London. This intensive innovation programme will put ideas into action in just 90 days. Co-creation, expert guidance and collaboration will push ideas through the development, refinement and testing phases. The best will then be incubated and the winners given the opportunity to scale up their ideas. The co-creation camp begins on Wednesday 6th December.

Speaking at the launch Chris noted that “inclusion is the parent of innovation” and thanked the GDI Hub team and everyone for working so hard on this and other initiatives.

Tarun Sarwal, Innovation Advisor, International Committee of the Red Cross said:

“The first Enable Makeathon held in Bengaluru, India last year led to the establishment of some great new products which Red Cross can now test in the field, helping to meet real need in conflict and post conflict situations. This year we are delighted that the GDI Hub team, with Richard Frost, are going to be running Enable Makeathon 2 in London.’

GDI hosts disability innovation summit

The Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub), which Chris chairs, hosted a two day Disability Innovation Summit on 13th and 14th July 2017.

Chris in suit smiling in front of banner saying Global Disability Innovation Hub

The GDI Hub is London’s new global research centre bringing together thought leaders and practitioners, from many disciplines, with knowledge and experience of design and disability. Through collaboration, technology, partnerships and study GDI’s mission is to improve the lives of disabled people worldwide.

Based in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, the GDI Hub is part of the 2012 Paralympic legacy programme. Over two days (13th and 14th July) linked to the World Para Championships, the Disability Innovation Summit, provided an opportunity to bring together disabled and non-disabled experts from around the world to share expertise and ideas to inspire and shape the future of disability innovation.

Technology is shifting the disability landscape. Advances in prosthetics, wheelchairs, wearable tech and bionics are changing the lives of disabled people and the potential is huge. The summit aimed to nurture and encourage those working at the forefront of engineering, computing, robotics, sport and art to come together, share knowledge and push the boundaries of design.

​The summit included keynote speeches, workshops and panel discussions:

  • ​The latest technologies and research
  • Disability dance, fashion and art
  • Global projects and innovations
  • Assistive technology
  • Built environment and inclusive design
  • Sport and community
  • Workplace and employment

Inclusive design for a better Britain

Chris on stage at ATEC conference.

Chris was delighted to give the keynote speech at tech conference, ATEC London 2017 today (June 6th 2017). He spoke about innovation, technology and the potential for assistive technology to offer solutions for disabled people. He also highlighted that inclusive design was beneficial for everyone, regardless of whether you have a disability or not.

ATEC London 2017 is a one-day event that allows disability professionals involved in the workplace and post-16 education to listen to and meet with assistive technology experts, solution providers and other likeminded delegates.

In his speech, entitled ‘Assistive Technology: a measure of civilization’, Chris shared his personal experience of assistive technology saying:

“From cassette tapes to text to speech software, I could not have enjoyed the education and career I have been lucky enough to have experienced so far without it.

I am genuinely and passionately excited about the potential of assistive technology to remove barriers, unlock opportunities and unleash talent.

Talent is everywhere but opportunity is not and assistive technology offers a way to address that terrible imbalance.

I urge everyone to learn more about what’s out there, ask questions, find solutions and share the good news”

ATEC London 2017, which is sponsored by Barclays, gives delegates the chance to keep up-to-date with emerging assistive technology products, trends and innovations.

Employers are becoming increasingly aware of how assistive technology can promote well-being and inclusion in the workplace, whilst improving performance.

It can enable disabled employees to work effectively and increase productivity, as well as helping to reduce stress by empowering disabled people and removing barriers to work.

We spoke to @LordCHolmes about the future of #AssistiveTech at @ATEConference #ATEConference pic.twitter.com/SQ4i6s3aT9

— Barclays Access (@BarclaysAccess) 6 June 2017

Chris is also working in Parliament to increase awareness among members of the vital role assistive technology can play in improving lives and is Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Assistive Technology.

Chris welcomes Women and Equalities Committee Report

Today (25th April 2017) the House of Commons Select Committee published their report and findings into their enquiry into Disability and the Built Environment including housing and shared space schemes in the public realm. Chris welcomed the report’s recommendations saying:

“I’m grateful that the Committee has recognised the importance of this issue and consulted so widely with stakeholders and disabled people as well as disability groups. The impact on people’s lives when public spaces are not accessible is devastating. Inclusive design must be the golden thread that runs through all new buildings and works in the public realm.

 I’m also delighted that the committee agree with my recommendation that a moratorium on shared space schemes is necessary. Local authorities require clarity in this space and the exclusion of people from their communities and potential waste of public money must end.”

Key recommendations include:

  • Strategic leadership The Government has a range of levers that can be used to achieve more accessible built environments, but is not using them well enough. Greater co-ordination and leadership is needed to make this framework effective, and to make it clear that inclusive design is a statutory requirement, not just a ‘nice to do’.
  • Designing for equality The Government should make it easier for local planning authorities to follow this lead through revision and clarification of national planning policy and guidance. Local plans should not be found sound without evidence that they address access for disabled people in terms of housing, public spaces and the wider built environment; to support this, the Equality and Human Rights Commission should investigate the Planning Inspectorate’s compliance with the Equality Act. Planning consent should only be given where there is evidence that a proposal makes sufficient provision for accessibility.
  • Housing More ambition is needed in the standards the Government sets for the homes that the country desperately needs. Housing standards need to be future-proofed and to produce meaningful choice in housing, not just to respond to immediate local need. The Government should raise the mandatory minimum to Category 2, the equivalent of the former Lifetime Homes standard, and apply it to all new homes – including the conversion of buildings such as warehouses or former mills into homes.
  • Public buildings and places Much more can be done to make the public realm and public buildings more accessible: through building accessible workplaces, and incentivising employers to improve existing ones; by updating the regulations for new buildings and amending the Licensing Act 2003. Greater provision of Changing Places toilets should be a specific priority: such facilities should be required in all large building developments that are open to the public.
  • Shared Spaces Shared spaces schemes are a source of concern to many disabled people across the country, particularly features such as the removal of controlled crossings and kerbs and inconsistency in the design of schemes from place to place. The report recommends that the Government halt the use is such schemes pending the urgent replacement of the 2011 guidance on shared spaces, ensure that the new guidance is developed with the involvement of disabled people – and that it is followed in practice.

Read the full report here.

Read Chris’s comment piece for Transport Network here

“PUBS ARE FOR EVERYONE; WHY BEING ACCESSIBLE IS IMPORTANT.” GUIDANCE LAUNCHED.

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has published updated guidance for pubs to help licensees make their venue as welcoming as possible to those with access needs. Chris was at the launch and is delighted to endorse the guidance saying it:

“provides lots of useful information for licensees to help those with access needs enjoy the Great British pub.”

The foreword to the guidance is written by Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson DBE, who points out that:

“accessibility is not simply about physical access to the pub, but rather it is about creating the best experience for all who visit”.

The guidance gives six key features for an accessible pub:

1. Access ramp at door

2. Hearing loops on bar

3. Large print menu

4. Accessible toilet with disability sign on door

5. Staff trained to meet needs of disabled customers

6. Layout – easy to navigate and clear of obstacles.

Let’s hope the guidance is circulated widely and embraced by all pubs. Read the guidance in full.

DELIGHTED REACTION TO NEWLY ESTABLISHED “PAULLEY PRINCIPLE” ON ACCESSIBLE TRANSPORT

The Supreme Court today ruled on a long running dispute between FirstGroup Plc and Doug Paulley.

In 2012, Mr Paulley, a wheelchair user, had been unable to board a bus when another passenger with a pushchair refused to move allow him to use the space. 

Mr Paulley  had argued operator FirstGroup’s “requesting, not requiring” policy was discriminatory. 

The court ruled that this policy of requiring a driver to simply request a non-wheelchair user to vacate the space without taking any further steps was unjustified.

Chris welcomes the “important milestone” but noted that as the judgement was with limits it may be necessary to look again at issues with existing legislation.  

Further legislation may offer the clarity and emphasis that is so urgently required to make sure disabled people feel confident about exercising an equal right to access public transport.

Chris welcomes commons report into accessible stadia

Top of the league clubs: Derby County, Wrexham, Tranmere Rovers, Egham Town; all have been named as examples of excellence in making their clubs truly welcoming of disabled supporters. You will note that none of these clubs are in the Premier League. In Sept 2015 the Premier League promised to make all clubs accessible to disabled people. The House of Commons Select Committee on Culture Media and Sport report published today states that it’s “very clear” that sports clubs, notably many of those with very considerable income and resources, have not done anywhere near enough for sports fans with disabilities in recent years, despite the increase in income many of those clubs have enjoyed.” Given the examples above I would say it is clearly a question of will rather than resources and Greg Clarke of the Football Association agrees, telling the committee “that for the Premier League the problem was not money”. Football is our national sport, beloved by so many of us, and it needs to rediscover its moral compass. If not on its own then with some help. Both the commons committee and the Minister for Sport have said they would support legal action against clubs that miss the August deadline and Bill Bush, executive director at the Premier League spoke of fines of up to £25,000. I would urge both the Premier League and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to use all means at their disposal to ensure that disabled supporters are no longer treated as second class citizens when they want to support their football team.

Chris’s letter to the Times: Football’s Failure

Watch Channel 4’s report: Are football stadia no go for disabled?

BBC Sport: Disabled access: Premier League clubs may face sanctions over lack of improvement