9 Must-Have Apps for People with Physical Disabilities in 2020

9 Must-Have Apps for People with Physical Disabilities in 2020

9 Must-Have Apps for People with Physical Disabilities in 2020

 

For people with physical disabilities, getting around in their everyday lives can be extremely difficult. Indeed, for wheelchair users a lot of obstacles can turn their trip into a nightmare like curbs that aren’t lowered or buildings with narrow entrances. They need to find business places, parking spots or even restrooms that are easily accessible for them. In the United States, there are approximately 2.7 million people who use a wheelchair. How can they navigate their way in the city and fully enjoy it?

Luckily, smartphones and apps in particular have made their lives better as it’s the case for deaf and hard of hearing people. Several apps are available that help them be more autonomous and more serene in their trips. Some were even created especially for people with poor dexterity or with reduced use of their upper limbs so that they can use their phones without any struggle. 

Let’s take a look at 9 free apps for people with mobility impairments that are entirely at their service!

Google Maps

One of the most used apps for GPS navigation is without doubt Google Maps. It offers street maps, street views, aerial photography and satellite imagery to visualize any place. It also gives information on traffic and on public transportation and plans your route according to the mode of travel (by foot, driving).

Thanks to the street views, the users can zoom in every part of a street to see if the curbs are lowered, an essential point for people in wheelchairs who want to get around in the city.

The app can be extremely helpful for wheelchair users with several features especially designed for them since it can show the exact location of the elevators and ramps that are laid in the city. They just need to select the “wheelchair accessible” option when they’re planning their route. 

If they want to use public transportation, Google Maps can even inform them on which modes of transport would best suit them.

The very new “accessible places” feature provides all the information concerning the layout of the premises wheelchair users need to know: entrance, parking spots, restrooms, seating arrangements… Whether they want to shop or eat at a restaurant, people with mobility impairment can easily find places accessible for them.

Available on both Android and iOS

 

Wheelmap

Another app that focuses on finding all the accessible places is Wheelmap. Not only does it map all the accessible places (restaurants, cafés, boutiques…) all over the world but it’s supplied by users. People with physical disabilities collect all the data necessary and transmit it to Wheelmap: they can upload images and leave comments. Thus sharing their experience with others who go through the same obstacles, they are in control of their environment. 

Wheelmap even gathers a community and organizes events for fellow users to join.

Plus, the app can be set in 32 languages. 

Available on both Android and iOS

AccessNow

A similar app to Wheelmap, AccessNow maps and locates several types of accessible places all around the world: restaurants, hotels, shops… The users can add information that can be rated by all.

Available on both Android and iOS

WheelMate

Focusing on locating only parking spots and restrooms, WheelMate also depends on information given by its users whether by adding new places or by rating them. 

More than 35 000 locations are mapped across 45 countries.

Available on both Android and iOS

FuelService

Although this app can only be used in the United Kingdom, it’s extremely innovative and helpful for disabled drivers to find a gas station with attendants who can help refueling their car. Thanks to this app, drivers who use wheelchairs can contact attendants to tell them they’re on their way. Attendants are then notified once the drivers arrive. The app also tells the drivers how many minutes they need to wait before being served.

Thus a task that can be challenging for a driver in a wheelchair can easily be done thanks to fuelService.

Available on both Android and iOS

 

IFTTT

Even though this app wasn’t designed for people with physical disabilities in particular, it can apply to them since its goal is to simplify the tasks of our everyday lives by connecting your different apps together. It even works with social networks.

Over 600 apps can be connected to IFTTT creating various combinations called “applets”. Thus, different tasks that people with poor dexterity struggle with can be automatically done such as set the home thermostat at the ideal temperature, read an email aloud, control everything at home with voice and Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant…

Setting all the necessary applets enables people with reduced dexterity to control every single task. They’re the ones who control everything thus making the app apply to their lives. 

Available on both Android and iOS

Google Assistant 

As previously mentioned, Google Assistant is activated by voice. People with reduced dexterity can use it to control their phones and ask them to call or text someone, send an email, set up alarms… 

Available on both Android and iOS

Google Voice Access

This app even goes further since it was especially created for people with reduced dexterity who can struggle to manipulate their phones. 

This accessibility service enables users to ask basic commands such as sending a text and address commands that directly involve what’s on the screen. The user doesn’t need to touch his phone to click or to scroll. Every task can be hands-free and easily operated by voice commands.

Available on Android

AssistiveTouch

A feature that can be set to help users to use their phones without having to use their fingers to access functions on their phones. 

Depending on their dexterity capacity, users can set AssistiveTouch to customize their actions. They can choose to do a single tap, a double tap or a long press. It’s even possible to create new gestures thus adapting more precisely the feature to the dexterity capacity of the user. The feature can record any movement the user wants to perform.

Available on both Android and iOS

Thanks to these apps and features, people with physical disabilities gain more autonomy and independence. Today technology rimes with accessibility for all. Clearly, it leaves no one behind and moves forward to meet the needs of everybody.

 

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Thanks to these apps and features, people with physical disabilities gain more autonomy and independence. Today technology rimes with accessibility for all.

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Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

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Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us AllFor sure, accessibility for all isn’t something to take lightly. And neither is it something that can easily be discarded considering that over 1 billion people in the world have disabilities. We, as world’s...

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal AccessibilityWith 1.36 million passengers per day, the Montreal metro is the first network in Canada and the third in North America behind New York City and Mexico City. The network, which was inaugurated on October 14, 1966...

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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.

How to Maintain Pedestrian Accessibility When Carrying out Street Works?

How to Maintain Pedestrian Accessibility When Carrying out Street Works?

How to Maintain Pedestrian Accessibility When Carrying out Street Works?

 

When street works and road works impact the road network, the design of accessible routes is essential to ensure that everyone, whether disabled or not, can move safely. If our sidewalks are adapted to our daily movements, their modifications related to punctual or long-term development activities generate multiple nuisances including the disruption of accessible routes for pedestrians.

Among the most affected pedestrians, the disabled.

How can utility companies safely carry out road works while taking into account the needs of the most vulnerable people in their journeys?

Let’s round up the problems encountered, the good practices in such events and the proven solutions in terms of accessibility on construction sites in our cities.

 

Why value street works’ accessibility?

Who is concerned?

Pedestrians that are the most affected by changes in urban space are people with disabilities. Several types of disabilities can affect a pedestrian’s ability to move safely on a construction site: hearing, visual, motor and mental disabilities.

These forms of disabilities represent about 15% of the global population.

 

What are the difficulties encountered?

 

People with visual impairment need a physical environment that is free of sharp edges, uneven levels, and obstructions that can cause tripping or falling.

Some of the difficulties that a visually impaired pedestrian will often face on road and street works include:

⊗ Not knowing the area is being rebuild until it is reached;

⊗ Not knowing if the sidewalk is closed or if a secure walkway has been laid out;

⊗ Not knowing if the street has to be crossed, you have to go straight or turn back and take another route;

⊗ Not knowing if someone nearby could help;

⊗ Not knowing if the construction site is free of any potentially dangerous obstacles.

 

People with reduced mobility mostly use a walking stick, crutches or a wheelchair to get around. Because of their mobility problems, they usually have trouble moving through narrow passages, turning around, and walking down stairs, which is why the installation of ramps is essential to maintaining access.

Pedestrians with reduced mobility also face significant challenges in the event of street works and road works, especially when:

⊗ Temporary access ramps are too steep, flickering or slippery;

⊗ Passages or maneuvers are too narrow for wheelchairs.

Deaf people may have difficulty in:

⊗ Hearing any warning signals;

⊗ Communicating with the workers;

⊗ Maintaining good visibility on the traffic;

⊗ Concentrating because of the background noise.

As for people with mental or psychological disabilities, the difficulties can be related to:

⊗ Lack of landmarks in case of modified itineraries;

⊗ Difficulty locating oneself on maps detailing the construction site;

⊗ Stress management related to the presence of street works;

⊗ Difficulty to reach the usual route and find one’s bearings.

 

Street works’ good practices

It is always the responsibility of site managers to make sure that pedestrians passing the works are safe. This means protecting them from both the works and passing traffic. Site managers must take into account the needs of children, older people and of course disabled people, having particular regard for visually impaired people. 

In order to do this they must provide a suitable barrier system that safely separates pedestrians from hazards and provides a safe route suitable for people using wheelchairs, mobility scooters, prams or pushchairs. Always be on the lookout for pedestrians who seem confused or who are having difficulty negotiating a temporary route, and be prepared to offer assistance.

The Department for Transport of the United Kingdom as issued a Code of Practice “Safety at Street Works and Road Works” in 2013. This document is a relevant example of good practices to carry out during street works in order to ensure accessibility to all users.

 

Protecting pedestrians with a barrier system

If the works are on or near a footway, then there is a risk that pedestrians might enter the working space. The working space will often contain a number of hazards that could harm pedestrians. For example, pedestrians might trip over material, fall into excavations or be struck by moving or falling equipment.

At all static works, pedestrians must be protected by a continuous system of barriers. Where a works site can be approached by pedestrians crossing from the opposite side of the road, barriers should be placed all around the excavation, even when pedestrians are not diverted into the carriageway. 

While working at a site, site managers must: 

⊗ Check that signs and barriers are still in place;

⊗ Ensure that materials or machinery do not go above or move into the pedestrian space;

⊗ Keep a lookout to prevent pedestrians entering the working space. If so, they must stop immediately all machinery movements and escort the pedestrians back onto a safe route.

Ensure the continuity of pedestrian paths

In the event of street alteration, it is essential to ensure accessible continuity of the pedestrian route, taking into account the needs of all users: the elderly, disabled, children, etc. The new path must be installed in priority on the same side of the road, and, as a last resort, on the opposite sidewalk. This could mean, for example, closing the footway and placing a ‘Footway closed’ sign at the works and an advance ‘Footway closed ahead’ sign at a location where it is safe for people to cross the road. It may be necessary to provide footway ramps on either side of the road at this location.

Another alternative, would be to offer assistance to those who might have difficulty to navigate, including wheelchair or mobility scooter users, visually impaired people, or people with pushchairs.

Ideally, the footway should be a minimum of 1.5 metres wide for temporary situations but if this cannot be achieved, the existing footway can be reduced to an absolute minimum of 1 metre unobstructed width.

 

What accessibility solution for visually impaired people?

 

Temporary signages contribute to the accessibility of urban worksites for a large part of the population but they still leave behind 286 million visually impaired people around the world. Indeed, conventional temporary signage does not alert to the presence of a building site and behavior to adopt in case of vision problems.

The human assistance plays a leading role in this case. On-site staff assistance can provide an answer to people in need but is not entirely satisfactory to ensure constant safety and full autonomy for visually impaired people.

The temporary beacon iBalise developed by the company Serfim is a mobile audio device that informs which path to take if changes are affecting the roadway. The latter is triggered remotely with the universal standard remote control used in particular to activate the messages of permanent audio beacons and accessible pedestrian signal. Audio content and volume can be adjusted in accordance to the needs on-site.

 

Open data: a universal accessibility solution

You are using a stroller and you want to avoid an area of ​​road works that would make you cross a busy street? You are using crutches and you prefer to take the shortest route taking into account alteration of your usual pathway? We are all one day likely to face a situation of temporary reduction of our mobility. Thus it becomes essential to be able to plan our trip upstream to avoid any difficulties.

The data collected is vital to 20% of the population living with permanent disabilities and useful to 100% of the population.

To meet this challenge of universal accessibility, the city of Angers proposed in 2017 a mobile application “Angers Info-Works” to alert its citizens of any changes to road and pedestrian routes. By selecting their destination address, users are informed through personalized alerts of any itinerary changes. Like the city of Angers, Streetco – a collaborative GPS for pedestrians – provides information on the presence of temporary obstacles.

Often free, mobile applications are a medium with a strong potential within reach of all.

But a new medium is upsetting that balance. New York City is currently testing a 3rd generation of accessible pedestrian signals at a crossroads in the city center for the first time. Attached to the masts of the intersections, this equipment will eventually be able to transmit information in audio format on the state of the road and changes of routes in the event of construction sites.

If the tests are conclusive, the prospect of collecting data and transmitting it in real time to users, particularly to blind and visually impaired people, provides a very promising urban accessibility solution. This will be interesting to watch…

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It is always the responsibility of site managers to make sure that pedestrians passing the works are safe. This means protecting them from both the works and passing traffic. Site managers must take into account the needs of children, older people and of course disabled people, having particular regard for visually impaired people. 

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us AllFor sure, accessibility for all isn’t something to take lightly. And neither is it something that can easily be discarded considering that over 1 billion people in the world have disabilities. We, as world’s...

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal AccessibilityWith 1.36 million passengers per day, the Montreal metro is the first network in Canada and the third in North America behind New York City and Mexico City. The network, which was inaugurated on October 14, 1966...

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.

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.

Urban mobility: 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 Signals Avoid 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 to enhance urban mobility!

Check out our articles on the city of tomorrow:

MaaS: a Solution for Tomorrow’s Mobility

Disability as an Innovation Driver for the Smart City

media

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.

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

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Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us AllFor sure, accessibility for all isn’t something to take lightly. And neither is it something that can easily be discarded considering that over 1 billion people in the world have disabilities. We, as world’s...

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal AccessibilityWith 1.36 million passengers per day, the Montreal metro is the first network in Canada and the third in North America behind New York City and Mexico City. The network, which was inaugurated on October 14, 1966...

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.

Obstacles in Public Transport: What Solutions for Physical Disability?

Obstacles in Public Transport: What Solutions for Physical Disability?

Obstacles in Public Transport: What Solutions for Physical Disability?

 

Wheelchair, crutches, bad balance, but also heavy luggage, strollers, young children… 30 to 40% of public transport users are in a situation of reduced mobility and 6.6% of the US population is living with an ambulatory disability. The removal of physical barriers is a prerequisite for their access to the transportation network, but also a huge challenge for transport network operators, especially when the infrastructure is old.

Let’s have a look at existing solutions and services. Get inspired by the transport networks that get it right!

What are the physical obstacles encountered in public transport?

Imagine yourself in front of a 15-inch step using a wheelchair, lengthening your trip by half an hour because of a broken down elevator, passing the safety gates with a large and heavy suitcase, going down 3 floors with your stroller and your baby in your arms, etc.

Reducing physical barriers in public transport is a real need for people with reduced mobility and physical disability.

Here are some examples of physical barriers that can be found in public transportation:

⊗ Unsuitable steps,

⊗ Significant differences in height between floors,

⊗ Long distances,

⊗ Slippery floors,

⊗ Excessive space between the platform and the vehicle,

⊗ Access heights too important.

These difficulties mainly concern people with ambulatory disabilities but can be extended to all people with reduced mobility. 

What are the solutions to reduce obstacles in public transport for people with a physical disability? 

Planning ahead: tips and tricks to travel serenely 

To save time and avoid unpleasant surprises (elevator down, stairs at the entrance …), planning ahead is a key step.

Many websites and mobile applications, often unknown to users, allow to locate accessible places and to be informed in real time of the level of accessibility of infrastructures. Among the best known are: wheelmap and access earth.

In addition, most cities like Chicago, Toronto and London provide users with a journey planner taking into account the network’s accessibility. 

Facilities adapted for people with reduced mobility 

In the United States for exemple, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is the landmark civil rights law that deals with the rights of persons with disabilities. Title II of the ADA “prohibits discrimination based on disability in public transport such as city buses and public railways”. The regulation imposes certain standards on transport networks, such as the requirement to provide disability access in new vehicles and paratransit services to those who cannot use public transportation.

Some transport network operators go beyond legal obligations and address custom-made arrangements to people with motor disabilities.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of the different accessibility solutions dedicated to people with reduced mobility all over the world:

⊗ In Lyon, France, all metro stations are equipped with lifts and dedicated gates,

⊗ The subway of New York City is equipped with AutoGate: an automatic entry/exit gate

⊗ In Montreal, all metros and buses are accessible for wheelchair users (elevators, front-door access ramps…)

⊗ In Barcelona, ​​a stop request button and a request button of the ramp has been set up in the buses to simplify the wheelchair exit,

⊗ Several metro lines in the world have a retractable threshold in order to fill the space between the platform and the vehicule,

⊗ Throughout Spain, a dedicated spot in buses is equipped with a belt and a grab bar that secures people in wheelchairs,

⊗ Many European buses have a validation terminal located in front of the access ramp preventing wheelchair users from having to move to the back of the bus,

⊗ The city of Toulouse in France has implemented a lowered card transport validation in buses. 

Services adapted for people with reduced mobility 

Reducing barriers in public transport also means providing services to people with motor disabilities.

Alternative modes of transport at the public transport rate is often offered in the event of a hazard and to those who cannot use public transport. In some cities, a free accompaniment service by qualified members of staff is offered. Other cities have also developed an ambulatory ambassador service. Disabled users advise and accompany those in need to better understand their difficulties and overcome them. Uber and Lyft both provide handicap-accessible transportation. Depending on the area, you may need to plan and pay more than a traditional ride. However, those private rideshare services can fill occasional needs. 

 

If leaving the house is often an expedition for people with a physical disability, this is not inevitable. As an accessibility actor of your public transport network, you have the power to improve the situation of at least 30% of your users. Lifts, access ramps, adapted furniture, real-time information on network accessibility, paperless ticketing, assistance services…, many solutions have proved successfully. Before setting up one or the other, we recommend that you look for feedback and organize a consultation with users of your network with disabilities to identify their difficulties, because what works well somewhere may need to be adapted elsewhere.

If you like this article you will also like this one: Making Public Transport Information Accessible to Disabled People

media

Of the nearly 2 million people with disabilities who never leave their homes, 560,000 never leave home because of transportation difficulties.

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us AllFor sure, accessibility for all isn’t something to take lightly. And neither is it something that can easily be discarded considering that over 1 billion people in the world have disabilities. We, as world’s...

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal AccessibilityWith 1.36 million passengers per day, the Montreal metro is the first network in Canada and the third in North America behind New York City and Mexico City. The network, which was inaugurated on October 14, 1966...

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.

Disabled People in the World in 2021: Facts and Figures

Disabled People in the World in 2021: Facts and Figures

Disabled People in the World in 2021: Facts and Figures

 

There are currently more than 1 billion disabled people in the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) a disabled person is anyone who has “a problem in body function or structure, an activity limitation, has a difficulty in executing a task or action; with a participation restriction”.

What are the different types of disabilities? How many people are affected? Which populations are most at risk? What impact has COVID-19 had on people with disabilities? Let’s take stock of the facts and statistics around the world. 

How many people have disabilities in the world?

You may not see disabled people in your everyday life, and yet the WHO has identified over 1 billion disabled people, 20% of whom live with great functional difficulties in their day-to-day lives. 

A few outstanding figures of disability around the world (according to the WHO’s 2011 report):

⊗ 253 million people are affected by some form of blindness and visual impairment. This represents 3.2% of the world’s population. That’s twice Mexico’s population*!

⊗ 466 million people have a disabling deafness and hearing loss. This represents 6% of the world’s population, that is to say all of the inhabitants of the European Union!

⊗ About 200 million people have an intellectual disability (IQ below 75). This represents 2.6% of the world’s population. It covers the number of inhabitants in Brazil!

⊗ 75 million people need a wheelchair on a daily basis. This represents 1% of the world’s population. That’s twice Canada’s population!

These statistics may remain an evolutionary average, but one thing is certain: the number of people affected by any form of disability represents a significant part of the world population, from children to adults alike. It is also important to underline the fact that some people may have multiple disabilities. This explains why the total number of people with disabilities in the world isn’t equal to the sum of people with disabilities per disability type. Indeed, the same person can be both deaf and blind.

What does an impairment mean exactly?

Visual impairment: this concerns far-sightedness and near-sightedness so there are two types of visual impairment to distinguish between.

Hearing impairment: you can be affected by hearing loss as soon as you lose 20 decibels. It may affect one or both of your ears. Depending on their hearing loss, hearing impaired people can have hearing aids, cochlear implants, subtitles. When we refer to deaf people, this means they can’t hear anymore or barely.

Intellectual disability: the WHO defines it as “a significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information and to learn and apply new skills (impaired intelligence)”.

Physical disability: this includes people with a physical impairment or reduced mobility. Thus, their mobility capacity may be limited in their upper and/or lower body. 

Explanation of global disability statistics

More and more people are affected by disability every year. It is often the most vulnerable people who are most at risk. The WHO says that “the number of people with disabilities is increasing because of the aging of the population and the increase of chronic diseases”.

Key facts:

⊗ 80% of disabilities are actually acquired between the ages of 18 and 64, that is to say the workforce age (according to the Disabled Living Foundation);

⊗ In 2017, people over 60 years old represented 962 million people, which was twice as many as in 1980;

⊗ 1 in 2 disabled person cannot afford treatment;

⊗ People with disabilities have a more fragile general health;

⊗ Disability increases dependency and limits participation in society;

⊗ The poverty rate is higher for people with disabilities.

These gaps are due to barriers to accessing health, education, transportation, information and work services – which many of us are taking for granted. 

If we focus on children with disabilities and their access to education, the observation is quite dreadful: according to the UNICEF, around 240 million children in the world have disabilities, that is to say one child out of ten. They are 49% more likely to have never attended school compared with children without disabilities.

Depending on their disabilities, their situations and the country they live in, they are more or less included in society. Inclusion that we now set up will have a positive impact in their adult lives.

A definition of invisible disability 

The concept of invisible disability takes its name from the forms of disability that are not apparent but that impact the quality of life. Among these are schizophrenia or deafness for example.

Far from clichés representing a disabled person in a wheelchair on the usual signage all over the world, the field of disability includes a vast range of disorders that are sensory, cognitive, psychological or chronic.

In the United States, about 10% of Americans have a medical condition which could be considered an invisible disability.

Learn more on this subject with our article:

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

People with disabilities and COVID-19

2020 was truly an exhausting year due to COVID-19’s propagation all over the world. We still struggle today to get rid of it even if the incoming of several vaccines represents a beacon of hope for us all.

We aren’t all equals dealing with disease and COVID-19 doesn’t make an exception! But it’s even more striking for people with disabilities who have had to deal with challenging issues due to their disabilities! Let’s see what consequences coronavirus has had on them.

Being visually impaired and being used to dealing with your environment through touch, what can you do when the world shifts and that you cannot touch anything anymore? Blind or visually impaired people suddenly lost all of their bearings. Plus they couldn’t always rely on the help of others. A lot of people were paranoid and scared for fear they might get infected by the virus if they guided a blind person offering their arm.

For deaf or hearing impaired people, communication with others could already be challenging before dealing with everybody wearing masks. Then they couldn’t lip read or decipher people’s emotions anymore. In order to leave no one behind, some people stepped up and created an inclusive mask to help hearing impaired people communicate and understand others. An inclusive world needs to include all categories of people. The inclusive mask is a perfect example of what an inclusive society should look like despite the fact that it’s not widely used yet. 

We all had to adapt after losing our bearings but it was more difficult for some than for others. Some people with an intellectual disability struggled to understand why the world suddenly stopped and everything turned upside down. For them, sticking to a routine was extremely important, something COVID-19 played havoc with, causing a severe amount of stress. 

A lot of public places implemented a specific system to let people in and out in order to avoid any contamination risk. For people with a physical disability, this could mean having to use a longer path or having to deal with narrower halls for wheelchair users. These situations can be both tiring and frustrating.

Generally speaking, a lot of people living in retirement homes or specialized medical centers were suddenly cut off from the outside world and their loved ones… Same as everybody, it had an impact, more or less important, on individuals’ mental well-being whether they have disabilities or not. Plus, the contamination risk remained present through the nursing staff. A continual and heavy stress for the families.

COVID-19 has increased inequalities in society regarding health. The United States and the European Union chose to first prioritize vaccination for the elderly, healthcare workers and people with serious health conditions. Just like a pack of wolves places its most fragile members ahead and its strongest behind to make sure that everybody gets through together. That’s the definition of solidarity! 

In conclusion

As we can see, disability comes in many different forms and is progressing all over the world. While some disabilities are temporary, others, on the other hand, affect the everyday actions of people in the long term.

Getting to know more about disabled people means getting to know more about 1 billion world citizens who are longing for one thing: a more accessible world!

 

*For our demonstration, we took the liberty to give approximate numbers concerning the population of the mentioned countries.

Here are the correct numbers of inhabitants in 2021 for each of them:

⊗ Mexico: 130 262 000 inhabitants

⊗ European Union: around 450 million inhabitants

⊗ Brazil: 213 993 000 inhabitants

⊗ Canada: 38 068 000 inhabitants

Updated on November 26th 2021

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO) a disabled person is anyone who has “a problem in body function or structure, an activity limitation, has a difficulty in executing a task or action; with a participation restriction”.

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Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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