Leading engineering and environmental professional services consultancy WSP is collaborating with Coventry University, RiDC and Designability and organisations Connected Places Catapult and Policy Connect to develop and run the UK’s first Evidence Centre for Inclusive Transport, with grant funding from Motability of £20 million over seven years. The Centre will work with disabled people, disabled people’s organisations, transport providers and policymakers to both undertake research and develop solutions which aim to make transport accessible for everyone.
Throughout an open and transparent grant competition process, Motability has worked with a panel of competition advisors, from research, policy, charity, and disability sector backgrounds.
With WSP’s expertise in Future Mobility, it will advise on emerging transport services, models and trends to understand how new and innovative technologies can support greater inclusivity in transportation designs.
The Evidence Centre aims to transform the transport sector’s understanding of disabled peoples’ experiences of transport and to take the opportunity of emerging technology advances in transport and low carbon ambitions to improve the accessibility and reliability of transport for disabled people. The Centre will convene disabled people and decision makers to drive for system-level change, helping realise Motability’s vision that no disabled person is disadvantaged due to poor access to transport.
Right now, disabled people make 38% fewer journeys than non-disabled people – a figure that hasn’t changed in the last decade. This “transport accessibility gap” tells us that there is much more that transport providers need to do to make sure that disabled people can travel across road, rail, and air with ease. Motability is grant funding this Evidence Centre for inclusive transport with the primary aim of closing the transport accessibility gap.
Giles Perkins, Head of Profession, Future Mobility at WSP, said: “Setting up the first collaborative UK centre that improves transport for disabled people is an exciting first step in making transport accessible, and WSP is delighted to be a partner to the Evidence Centre.
We know that there is a significant opportunity to improve transport for disabled people so we’re proud to support the Evidence Centre and our partners to drive meaningful change. This long-term partnership in the Evidence Centre over the next seven years builds upon WSP’s global expertise in human-centred design and we look forward to seeing our research make a tangible impact on the lives of disabled people.”
Barry Le Grys, Chief Executive of Motability, said: “After an extensive competition process, we are pleased to grant fund Coventry University, alongside RiDC, Designability, Connected Places Catapult, Policy Connect and WSP UK to run the UK’s first Evidence Centre for Inclusive Transport. The organisations bring their wealth of experience and expertise in transport design and the experiences of disabled people to help us to create longer-term solutions in travel accessibility.
We know that being unable to make the journeys they want or need to, has a huge impact on disabled people’s daily lives; from getting a job, to attending medical appointments, to seeing friends and family. While some solutions exist to help make transport accessible, the fact that the accessibility gap hasn’t improved in a decade shows that much more needs to be done.
The competition process has attracted lots of interest across the transport and disability sectors, which is vitally important for making transport more inclusive. I look forward to seeing the positive changes the Evidence Centre will make by working with disabled people, disabled people’s organisations, transport providers and policy makers to make transport accessible for everyone.”
Paul Herriotts, Professor of Transport Design in the Centre for Future Transport and Cities at Coventry University, said: “We are delighted at Coventry University to have been chosen to lead the Evidence Centre. We look forward to starting this exciting project for which we have great passion; it builds upon our strengths at Coventry University of teaching and research in transport design and our track record of applied research delivering real impact.
We recognise the daily challenges still faced by disabled people in accessing transport in the UK, whilst this is a complex issue, it largely stems from today’s transport simply not being appropriate for the needs of disabled people. This poor provision of accessible transport leads to many disabled people facing real challenges in a range of key activities including education, employment, healthcare and being socially connected.
Research is needed to better understand disabled peoples’ lived experiences, needs, and wants in relation to transport. The Evidence Centre will house and deliver future research - with this much-needed new approach: the generous funding from Motability enables us to undertake innovative applied research that puts disabled people at the heart of the process. We will look to disabled people to help guide and inform our activities and to help shape the future of public and private transport in the UK. The Evidence Centre looks to make a real difference and to drive change with the intention of positively transforming the lives of disabled people.”
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