Accessibility Challenges

There are many accessibility challenges faced on commuters and the general public in moving around public spaces. Here we attempt to capture a number of them and provide insights into why they are challenging for folks who are presented with them.

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Light and Direction

This sign at Central Railway Station in Sydney, has advertising on the approaching side of the bus stop. This is not ideal placement as it is much brighter than the surrounding street, causing even non disabled people to strain to see the oncoming bus information on the usually poorly illuminated bus.

This sign illuminates the bus stop but makes it difficult to see up the dark street as the bus heads towards you.

Blocking Pavement

It’s not uncommon to see blocked pavement, particularly while there is construction or safety hazards in place. However it’s important to mark the area with signs to prevent folks with mobility needs from traversing too far down a difficult path before having to head backwards. This pavement below, blocks wheelchair users from easily moving around the multiple obstacles in the path, while also not being signed correctly, requiring the pedestrian to navigate back up a hill, cross a road and then head down the adjacent side.

Here are a handful of examples of pavement placement and construction where there could be better access provided.

Blocking the road

Thoughtless parkers don’t always mean to cause problems, but when vehicles are blocking the only accessible and safe path down or across a road it means a wheelchair, or assisted walker user is required to walk on the unsafe part of the road, is unable to cross the road at all (when a vehicle blocks the ingress on the other side) or the person has to walk on uneven ground, raising the risk that they may lose their balance or fall.

Inaccessible accessible entrances

This is another common one, particularly in retrofitted buildings. Here we can see that access to the building’s lift from the street requires access via a number of stairs. The accessible entrance is only available during posted office hours and if you are attempting to enter (or leave) outside of those hours you will need access to the building via a security swipe.

Alternative journey during maintenance

When there is a track work, repairs or upgrades taking place on one mode of public transport, it’s common to replace it with another. Here trackwork on the light-rail network means that buses are replacing trams. In the distance, you see the walking distance from the light rail station to the bus, which is not too far city bound, however the last image shows that in order to reach the outbound bus, you need to travel a long distance (around 75m), step down a kerb onto a busy 2 lane road which is blocked from visibility by parked cars with no assistance or crossing available, cross onto a high kerb on the far side and wait under a large bushy tree on a grassy kerb for the outbound bus.

That’s assuming you can find the stop, which took our team about 10 minutes.

Accessible parking issues

It’s not always an inconsiderate or thoughtless driver who parks across an accessibility space (as seen below left), but it is also sometimes confusing for non-disabled drivers to read between the lines that spaces have been marked for accessible parking only. On the right, you see a recently updated car space converted from three single spaces into two accessible spaces – while the old lines were somewhat left, a non-disabled driver not paying a lot of attention was easily confused by the line markings and parked across two accessible spaces at once.

Thoughtless obstructions

While it’s a long way to take a trolley back to the trolley bay often trolleys are left in parking spaces for someone to come and collect. When they are left in accessible parking bays (frequently in this particular shopping centre in Inner Sydney) it’s safe to assume the level of difficulty for someone requiring an accessible parking bay, to move obstructions from a parking bay is higher than a non-accessible bay.

View from the bench

When the view from a bench at a transit stop is blocking the view of the approaching transit vehicle it means that bench is unlikely to provide any aid to those who need it most. Commuters shouldn’t need to decide between seeing when a vehicle is approaching, or recovering from the walk to the transit stop.

The long way round

This is an accidental design challenge from people with limited mobility. On the right the bus stop is about 12m up an incline and across a bike path. On the left, a long decline down and past the bus stop, requiring a non-wheelchair using person with limited mobility to walk about 2 dozen metres longer down and up a hill that is completely necessary.

In most cities and counties, parking across a pathway is illegal even when it is a residential driveway.

Crossing dangerously

In rural or lower populated areas transit stations are slowly being improved, however some locations still struggle with safe crossings for folks who require them. Crossing narrow and uneven surfaces is not always a safe option and often we encourage passengers to travel to the next station and change trains (if time permits) in order to not cross dangerously.