Network Rail has published an inclusive design strategy in a bid to make Britain’s rail network more accessible for disabled people.
The Spaces and Places for Everyone initiative is a commitment to making sure that design thinking is “deeply embedded within Network Rail as an organisation” according to its chief executive Mark Carne.
Accessibility panel set up
A built environment accessibility panel has been set up. It uses co-design principals and is made up of disabled passengers who are also experts in inclusive design and can provide technical and strategic advice to project teams.
The new inclusive design thinking has been prompted by Network Rail-commissioned research, which finds that 67% of disabled people who travel, chose to travel by rail. Of these, 24% felt their journey would not be an easy one and 33% said they would use the train more if it were more accessible to them.
“We know it has not been good enough”
Carne says: “Most of today’s railway was designed during the Victorian era when attitudes towards disability were very different. Since then, access for disabled people has been tagged on at a later stage, rather than being part of the initial design strategy for our railway. We know it has not been good enough in the past, and we need to make it easier for disabled people to plan journeys and travel by rail.
“We are committed to changing this, and doing what is necessary to make sure that inclusivity is deeply embedded in our culture. Only then will our railway be a place where everyone can travel equally, confidently and independently.”
Some of the changes have already begun to roll out. At Birmingham New Street an area for guide dogs to go for a wee has been created, while at Reading station an audio guide has been created by Microsoft so that visually impaired people can find their way out of the station and around the town.
Meanwhile at London Bridge lifts and escalators are being redeveloped to improve access and these are expected to open to passengers this summer.