Case study

DFID Research: Improving urban transport accessibility for the disabled

Guidelines and standards developed for improving the access of disabled people to transport

Improved bus access for wheelchairs
Improved bus access for wheelchairs. Picture: CSR Asia

If international targets on poverty reduction are to be reached then efforts must be made to reduce the isolation of disabled people. Improving their mobility and physical access to livelihood opportunities needs to be a priority. Disability and poverty are closely linked in many developing countries: for example, people with disabilities can suffer from poorer schooling and low levels of employment often as a result of a lack of access made worse by mobility issues.

As part of DFID’s transport research programme, a research project was begun in 2001 to compile a compendium of guidelines and standards for improving the access of disabled people (with a range of impairments) to transport services in urban areas. Managed by the Transport Research Laboratory Ltd, and based on evidence from demonstration projects in India, Malawi and Mozambique, the project showed that a number of low-cost improvements can be made to vehicles, infrastructure, and driver practices to improve the accessibility of the disabled to transport opportunities. Though this did not lead to increased travel, it was evident that disabled passengers benefited from the removal of barriers to travel; furthermore, as a ‘win win’ outcome all passengers indicated gain from even minor improvements aimed at disabled travelers.

Some of the critical issues regarding access and mobility for the disabled raised by the study and addressed in the Guidelines include:

  • in countries where very little progress has been made in accessibility, lobbying may be one of the most important ways to make rapid progress
  • issues of access to personal mobility devices, and affordability of public transport are still major challenges in many developing communities. It may be sensible to focus limited government budgets on improving access to wheelchairs, canes and the like as a matter of priority
  • in countries where some disability legislation exists, there is a need to translate these laws into actions
  • as long as local circumstances are taken into account, there can be significant benefits to transferring technology and good practice across countries
  • finding sustainable solutions to the accessibility problems of privately owned and operated minibuses is a major challenge

Given these issues, objectives for better mobility are identified under 4 interlinked points namely Safety, Accessibility, Reliability and Affordability. These objectives linked with specific principles that apply to each, can then be used as a checklist when considering the accessibility of any particular part of a transport scheme. This best practice it is hoped will lead to the adoption of design principles that improve access to pedestrian and public transport systems for all users.

Read the Overseas Road Note 21 - Enhancing the mobility of disabled people: Guidelines for practitioners

Published 21 June 2007