Urban mobility of the most vulnerable: 5 minutes to understand

Urban mobility of the most vulnerable: 5 minutes to understand

Urban Mobility of the Most Vulnerable: 5 Minutes to Understand

 

Ensuring urban mobility for all is a major challenge. Many people who are vulnerable because of their physical condition, mental health, age or strong cultural barriers can not move independently. The sidewalks that we walk every day without difficulty can be a source of anxiety and factor of social withdrawal for the most fragile people.

In the light of different surveys, we will try to understand the behavior and needs of fragile people in their travels. What are the difficulties encountered ? What are the measures to be taken to improve their experience in the urban space? This article takes stock of the situation.

Make the city “legible”

According to Kevin Lynch’s book Image of the City (1960), the city is made “legible” thanks to five structuring elements: streets, neighborhoods, landmarks, boundaries and nodes (junction and concentration points). Pedestrians rely on these physical forms to find their bearings. They are meant to offer the user the opportunity to create a mental image of the places he or she walks.

When readability is lacking, apprehension takes the lead. This anxiety can become a real source of stress that paralyzes the most vulnerable people so that they give up moving and lose autonomy.

The perception of urban space varies from one user to another according to his physical and mental abilities, his personal experience and his culture. These personal filters encourage the consideration of the capacities of the most diverse users.

Priority goes therefore to the “legibility” of the city to improve the feeling of safety of all users.

Who are the most fragile people?

Disabled people

“About 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability, of whom 2-4% experience significant difficulties in functioning.” WHO

Disability typologies are grouped under six main categories:

⊗ mobility impairment

⊗ sensory disability

⊗ psychic handicap

⊗ mental disability

⊗ cognitive impairment

⊗ debilitating diseases

Among them, there are people with several disabilities of the same degree as deafblindness and people with a severe disability with multiple expressions resulting in extreme restriction of autonomy.

Old people

“Between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years old will nearly double from 12% to 22%.”(WHO)

The elderly are often affected by gait disorders, cognitive disorders and sensory disorders.

Foreigners

Cities around the world are not alike and that’s good! Culture is indeed at the heart of urban development. Some tourists and especially some immigrants can lose their bearings because of a different conception of the city as they know it and the lack of knowledge of the language. In American for exemple, over 76 million tourists from all over the world are visiting the country every year. In England, over 40 million visits have been recorded in 2017.

Other factors

Everyone can feel vulnerable, the time of a trip. Distraction, temporary tiredness or punctual stress are all factors that affect physical or intellectual abilities.

Movement strategies of the most vulnerable people

 

The Center for Studies and Expertise on Risks, the Environment, Mobility and Development (CEREMA) has initiated about twenty commented journeys in urban environments with so-called “fragile” people. The objective of this study is to highlight the difficulties of certain urban amenities and the travel choices of the most vulnerable people to solve these difficulties.

The perception of public space by people with disabilities

People with visual impairments face many technological and social challenges on a daily basis. But that’s without counting the environmental difficulties, especially in their movements in the city. The design of the public space is rather intended and thought for people who have all the senses. The experience of space without the eyes rests mainly on the decipherment of the sound and tactile cues, as for example:

 

 

⊗ attention to sidewalk changes that signal a zone change

⊗ listening to the noise of cars to appreciate the proximity of the street

⊗ the attention paid to the arrangement of the trees to know the position of the buildings, etc.

To move safely, visually impaired people make travel choices that vary from person to person such as:

⊗ be accompanied by a person

⊗ favor the streets at right angles and with few shops or terraces to avoid obstacles and crowds

⊗ walk along the walls to cross wide open spaces,

⊗ follow the GPS directions by choosing the shortest route or the one with the least turns

Deaf people, who have invisible disabilities, also find it difficult to decipher their environment. A study conducted by the Gare de Lyon in Paris shows that among users with all types of disabilities, it is the people with hearing problems who have the most difficulty to achieve a journey. This result can be explained by “the natural invisibility of hearing loss that does not generate spontaneous assistance from the public or staff (…) but also by the reluctance of the people involved to announce their disability”, says the study.

To decipher their environment, deaf people favor visual ambiances, kinesthetic or olfactory cues and breaks in the atmosphere or certain urban furniture. They rely mainly on written inscriptions, characteristic smells and break points.

In terms of choice of travel, the CEREMA study shows that deaf people generally avoid approaching areas considered dangerous as water bodies.

As for people with reduced mobility, they prefer a route adapted to their physical condition. Wheelchair users need alternatives to stairs, steps and slopes equal or greater than 1:12. In either case, they take care to prepare their trip upstream.

For people with mental, cognitive and psychic disabilities the understanding of the urban space is often altered by the worry and stress of the unknown. The disability can be aggravated when the logic of the organization of space is not made explicit. In this case, the person tends to give up moving. Travel choices focus on familiar routes, close to home and leave no room for the unexpected.

Public space for the elderly

Older people may also have sensory, physical or motor disabilities, or many at the same time. They are subject to stress, fatigue, memory loss. It can be difficult for them to read road signs or a map because of vision problems.

According to a March 2016 Observatory Mobility (OMNIL) survey, the main reason for moving for people over the age of 60 is the home-purchase journey.

Older people concentrate their trips to do their shopping near their homes. They will take their time, sit on public benches to rest, go outside of the period of influence…

The case of foreigners

For some foreigners, the city they discover may not have the architectural codes they know. In addition, the lack of knowledge of the language is an impediment to decipher road signs and ask for directions.

Preferred travel strategies are the use of a GPS or a map (which can be a distraction 

and can cause accidents) and the assistance of passers-by.

Suggested improvements to enhance urban mobility of fragile people

Facilitating access to the city by all means designing more ergonomic urban spaces. Urban planners and public decision-makers must take into account the mobility difficulties of the entire population and set benchmarks to facilitate their orientation and their choice of trips.

Here are some ways to improve urban mobility for all:

⊗ Provide GPS-type tools for people with disabilities to calculate a route based on a specific disability

⊗ Design clear and visible signage by all to avoid endangerment by looking for clues

⊗ Install audio beacons in key city locations and transportation networks to guide visually impaired

⊗ Securing pedestrian crossings for the visually impaired by installing

⊗ Accessible Pedestrian SignalsAvoid the creation of obstacles on the main axes of movement which are the reference routes for the most fragile users

⊗ Consult the users to seek feedbacks and the experts in order to propose adequate solutions

⊗ Make available and maintain accessibility equipment and street furniture, especially benches to rest and promote social bonds

⊗ Delimit space changes with clear visual or tactile cues

⊗ Limit spaces to a proper function to promote readability

⊗ Focus on the quality of public spaces ambiances to make them reassuring and welcoming

We are all vulnerable pedestrians. Tourist, expatriate, permanently or temporary disabled, subject to the tiredness of age or a busy day. This fragility, whatever its nature, induces a loss of autonomy and serenity in our travels.

A more legible city is a city that welcomes more visitors, boosts its economy and takes into account the travel choices of the entire population. Designing the city for the benefit of the most vulnerable means ensuring comfort and security for all. So consult the users and ask them about the areas to focus on to improve your city.

Start now!

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Some tourists and especially some immigrants can lose their bearings because of a different conception of the city as they know it and the lack of knowledge of the language.

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Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

Mobility Apps for Blind People or how Technology Can Replace Special Assistance at the Airport

Mobility Apps for Blind People or how Technology Can Replace Special Assistance at the Airport

Mobility Apps for Blind People or How Technology Can Replace Special Assistance at the Airport?

 

Summer is here and holidays are coming up. Millions of us crowd to airports to fly to more or less distant destinations. And among us, people who are blind or visually impaired too! How do they get to their departure terminal, find their way in these disproportionate spaces, reach their check-in counter and then the boarding gate? In addition to passenger assistance services, technologies offer more and more possibilities to move independently and to enjoy the services of an airport in the same way as any other air passenger. Provided we take into account the specific needs of each and this is what we will discuss in more detail in this article.

Airport Assistance for Travelers with Disabilities or Reduced Mobility

When blind or visually impaired people make the decision to travel alone by plane, they may use airport assistance. They simply indicate their need of guided assistance during their flight reservation or by contacting the service directly at least 48 hours in advance.

With the regulation (EC) No 1107/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 concerning the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air, the European Union transferred responsibility for passenger assistance to airports. In some countries such as the United States, however, it remains the responsibility of the airlines, which results in very disparate service levels.

Special assistance staff can help people with disabilities from the check-in counter on to the aircraft, as well as on arrival. Travelers who are blind or visually impaired are then accompanied to go through security and to the departure gate.

Reaching the Airport Assistance Point: A Major Difficulty for a Blind Person

Although special assistance starts at the check-in desk, how do you get there if you have low or no vision? Traveling to and from the transit point or the drop-off can be long and fraught.

One solution is to install call stations near these stopping points so that travelers with disabilities or reduced mobility can report their presence to the special assistance staff. This is what the European regulation advocates. But again, how do you find these call points when you cannot see? To be easily localizable, the call stations must:

⊗ Be visually contrasted with their environment

⊗ Be identifiable by an remote activated audio beacon

⊗ Be marked with a tactile path.

It will also be necessary to ensure the simplicity and usability: call button clearly visible and handy, sound return to confirm the consideration of the call, audio quality for communication.

Indoor Navigation Apps for Blind and Visually Impaired People

Checking in your luggage, passing through the security check, going to the departure gate and then on to the aircraft, the human assistance makes it possible to accomplish all this route easily and without stress. But blind and visually impaired people aspire to enjoy the same services as other travelers: going to restrooms, eating, shopping … This is even more important when the succession of flights requires them a long wait. In addition, the use of airport assistance requires anticipation that is not always possible (last-minute travel offers, unplanned business trips, family emergencies, etc.). That’s why being able to navigate independently in an airport with a visual impairment is a key issue.

Many international airports, such as Paris, Copenhagen or Houston, offer smartphone-based indoor navigation applications to guide travelers through their premises. These applications are generally based on Bluetooth low-energy beacons spread around the building, these same beacons that can transmit contextualized information.

But unlike what exists today, to guide the visually impaired, these applications must take into account their specific needs.

The user interface:

The application must be fully compatible with screen readers (VoiceOver for iOS and TalkBack for Android) and the zoom and comfort options on smartphones. All buttons, lists and other navigation items must be carefully labeled with explicit text.

Different input methods must be available: classic input, voice dictation or braille input on the screen.

Directions:

Visually impaired people generally do not have the ability to refer to a map or visual signage. The directions must therefore be indicated according to the position of the user, using either the clock face or provided in degrees.

Specific landmarks:

People who are blind or visually impaired rely on different landmarks from other travelers. These are essentially tactile or sound cues. Thus, the descriptions of routes provided by the application must mention these elements in a precise manner: tactile guide paths, warning indicators, audio beacons… These physical elements also make it possible to confirm one’s position and be reassured about the good course of the itinerary.

Wayfinding accuracy:

Although it is possible for sighted people to rectify the inaccuracy of navigation by glancing at the signage and their environment, this is much more complicated for people with low or no vision. Location accuracy is therefore an important factor in guiding a route and reaching the desired destination. But it is not the only one! Current technologies are not accurate within one meter. In order to fulfill the mobility objectives of end users, to ensure precise guidance and to lead them to their destination, other criteria intervene, in particular the accuracy of the instructions issued. Is the staircase ascending or descending? How many steps? Right or turning? Is there a door? A manual or automatic opening?

The involvement of end users in the project

Finally, the application must be customizable because the needs and user preferences vary from one person to another depending on their remaining visual abilities, their experience and their abilities. Any wayfinding application project should be the subject of a consultation of end users to identify their needs, but also of in situ experiments during development to validate the proper functioning of the system.

Today, the expertise acquired by professionals specialized in mobility of people with disabilities and the maturity of technologies make it possible to consider effective solutions for guiding people with visual impairments. This is the opportunity to offer them equal access to all services and freedom of choice in their daily lives, to allow them full participation in economic and social life.

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Special assistance starts at the check-in desk. How do you get there if you have low or no vision? Traveling to and from the transit point or the drop-off can be long and fraught.

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Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities  Who hasn’t been uncomfortable dealing with a person with disabilities? We’ve all been afraid to drop a clanger, to be clumsy and to behave badly. It’s normal to feel disconcerted in a new situation when we don’t...

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities  Who hasn’t been uncomfortable dealing with a person with disabilities? We’ve all been afraid to drop a clanger, to be clumsy and to behave badly. It’s normal to feel disconcerted in a new situation when we don’t...

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The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

Disability as an Innovation Driver for the Smart City

Disability as an Innovation Driver for the Smart City

Disability as an Innovation Driver for the Smart City

 

Smart City. We hear a lot of talk about it. This concept coming straight from the United States is starting to make its way into cities around the world.

But what is a smart city exactly? It is a city that puts at the service of its citizens Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to provide with services adapted to their needs in real time. It is found at different levels of society such as education, transportation, the environment, health or safety. The overall objective of the smart city is therefore to improve the quality of life of citizens through new technologies.

Nice program! But what are the actual innovations behind this approach? And how can they improve the lives of the most vulnerable citizens? In an aging world where by 2030 the number of people over the age of 60 is expected to reach 1.4 billion and that already has more than 1 billion people living with disabilities, one wonders how the smart city can respond to their needs.

 

Let’s explore initiatives from around the world that showcase new accessibility technologies. Here are some projects that caught our attention.

#1 Transport and Mobility

Intelligent urban mobility aims to make traveling in the city of all citizens easier, on foot, by public transport and by personal vehicle. Intelligent transport provides everyone with real-time, up-to-date data that has a positive impact on the environment and the quality of life of citizens.

We have selected for you some inspiring projects:

⊗ NAVIGUEO+ HIFI: customizable sound beacons installed in many transport networks in France at points of interest such as above a counter or at the entrance of a metro station indicating its location and transmitting practical information. This sound guidance system can be activated remotely using a smartphone, thus offering autonomy to blind and visually impaired people.

⊗ StreetCo: an application that promotes the mobility of people with reduced mobility thanks to a collaborative pedestrian GPS alerting users in real time of obstacles and informing them about the accessibility of nearby places.

⊗ MappedED!: a platform for inclusive academic mobility in Europe that provides an interactive map about various factors of university with a focus on students with disabilities.

⊗ Uber: the well-known mobility platform helps people with disability with an on-demand transportation service allowing more flexibility and spontaneity when moving for people with disability.

⊗ Autonomous vehicles: if currently the regulation prohibits people who do not have a driving license to drive a self-driving vehicle, this could soon change. Google showed a few years ago the potential of this voice-controlled technology for blind people. To be continued…

#2 Inclusion

The concept of inclusion is linked to human rights movements concerning people with disabilities highlighting the place of “full right” of all people in society, regardless of their characteristics.There are many initiatives that promote the inclusion of people with special needs in society. 

Here is our selection:

⊗ Avencod : “Nature creates differences, Avencod makes talents”. This is the slogan of the french-based company that employs people with autism Asperger to fulfill missions in digital areas such as web development.

⊗ The Open Voice Factory : a free software that helps give voice to people with communication difficulties.

⊗ The Disability Innovation Institute in Australia is doing research on smartphone use as a tool for integrating people with intellectual disabilities. The results show that the use of the smartphone increases social inclusion, the feeling of belonging to a group and social recognition.

 

#3 Health

New technologies including mobile technologies create smart health solutions for citizens. Some project leaders have focused their efforts on solutions dedicated to people with disabilities to enable them to gain autonomy in their daily lives.

⊗ The Evolvable Walking Aid : a modular range of parts that can be assembled to form a cane, crutches or a walking frame to avoid buying new equipment for walking when the mobility of the user is evolving.

⊗ WatchHelp : a mobile application connected to a watch that promotes the autonomy of people with mental and/or cognitive disorders. The application sends notifications in the form of simple visuals indicating the daily actions to be performed.

⊗ Wandercraft : exoskeletons allowing people with reduced mobility to walk independently and naturally.

 

#4 Safety

Safety is a major issue in reflections to improve the quality of life in the city. The safety of people with disabilities, which is put to the test daily, has inspired a french-based company:

⊗ aBeacon Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) : Okeenea won a call for innovation of New-York City’s Department of Transportation to implement a new generation of connected Accessible Pedestrian Signals that allow visually impaired pedestrians to cross the street safely. This new device is triggered remotely and delivers fully customizable information.

#5 Infrastructure

Building smart infrastructures in the cities of tomorrow helps including different population groups, including the elderly and people with disabilities. Smart Buildings are designed to meet the specific needs of the most vulnerable people from the design stage through data collection and sharing.

⊗ Connected retired homes: retired people are starting to embrace the internet of things with next-generation connected retirement homes. These smart life-care homes include immersive screens, connected boxes, automation, videoconferencing and mobile applications to help residents regain some independence.

#6 Information

⊗ Communicating urban furniture: Kansas City was among the finalists for the 2016 Smart City Challenge offering its residents at city key locations interactive kiosks used to collect and share data. The screens are backlit and at a height accessible to people in wheelchairs. The terminals are also equipped with audio jacks to allow people with visual impairments to connect headphones.

⊗ Humble Lamppost intelligent public lighting: a project competing with the innovation partnership for smart cities and communities. The project leaders have thought of a connected floor lamp that broadcasts sound information tailored to the citizens. The autonomous device also saves energy and increases the safety of pedestrians nearby.

The smart city is a vector of innovations in areas related to disability and accessibility. New technology and IOT offers new opportunities to empower a growing group of people with specific disabilities.

Always wondered how Vision Zero project impacts road safety? Read our article!

Designers of the Smart City, decision-makers, a smart city is an inclusive and accessible city. Think about the needs of the most fragile users from the conception by consulting them and universal accessibility of your solutions will be guaranteed!

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Designers of the Smart City, decision-makers, a smart city is an inclusive and accessible city.

Think about the needs of the most fragile users from the conception by consulting them and universal accessibility of your solutions will be guaranteed!

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

follow us!

more articles

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities  Who hasn’t been uncomfortable dealing with a person with disabilities? We’ve all been afraid to drop a clanger, to be clumsy and to behave badly. It’s normal to feel disconcerted in a new situation when we don’t...

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities  Who hasn’t been uncomfortable dealing with a person with disabilities? We’ve all been afraid to drop a clanger, to be clumsy and to behave badly. It’s normal to feel disconcerted in a new situation when we don’t...

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

Sign up now for our newsletter.

Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.