Coventry University is today launching the National Centre for Accessible Transport (NCAT) with the aim to make future and existing modes of transport accessible to all.
A UK first in inclusive transport, NCAT is a £20 million project funded by Motability, the charity, and is led by Professor Paul Herriotts, based at the university’s National Transport Design Centre (NTDC), working alongside a number of organisations that form a specialist consortium.
Consortium members are Connected Places Catapult, Designability, Policy Connect, Research Institute for Disabled Consumers, and WSP.
NCAT’s research and agenda will be led by disabled people and will build upon the user-centred approach successfully developed at NTDC. The centre aims to make transport accessible for all by engaging with disabled people to better understand their experiences and co-design solutions; amplifying the voices of disabled people in all decision-making; collaborating widely with transport stakeholders; and demonstrating good practice and impact to influence policy, with innovation at the heart of its work.
Professor Paul Herriotts said: “It is vital that we listen to what disabled people have to say about their experiences of public and private transport and use this information to change the future of travel. NCAT will use research and insights to influence key decision-makers in the transport sector and local and national government to ensure that the way disabled people travel and get from one place to another is made much easier.”
Motability’s research shows that disabled people in the UK currently make 38% fewer journeys than non-disabled people – a figure that hasn’t changed in the last decade. This impacts disabled people’s access to healthcare, employment, education and social activities.
An event to officially launch the centre is taking place at Coventry University today (February 15) and invited guests will hear directly from disabled people about their current travel and transport experiences.
Stephanie McPherson-Brown, whose PhD with Coventry University is researching disabled people’s experiences of public transport, said: “For me, it’s about how transport impacts on quality of life, everybody uses transport for different things, it’s not just getting to work or the hospital, disabled people need public transport to be able to socialise, see friends and to be spontaneous just like everyone else.
“When there are barriers to using transport, it really can impact your self-esteem. There is a lot more planning that disabled people have to do to travel, which can be stressful and sometimes you really have to weigh up whether the journey is worth it. I feel so privileged to be helping this project, a centre like this is really needed.”
Professor John Latham CBE, Coventry University Vice-Chancellor, said: “This is an amazing opportunity for Coventry University to improve transport for disabled people. Putting disabled people at the heart of our research will help to make it as relevant and informed as possible so we can hopefully make a real difference in the world.”
Disabled people make an average of 38% fewer trips than non-disabled people. There has been no reduction in this gap over the past decade. Analysis shows that completely closing the transport accessibility gap for disabled people in the UK would deliver benefits in the region of £72.4 billion per annum.
NCAT will work with disabled people, disability organisations, transport providers and policymakers to undertake research and develop solutions, making sure all modes of future travel systems (including road, rail, air and sea) have accessibility for disabled people at the heart of their development and delivery. The aim is for NCAT to provide disabled people with increased independence, travel confidence, and improved quality of life.
NCAT will be located in the National Transport Design Centre, a national hub for future transport design and development and a state-of-the-art facility operating within the Research Centre for Future Transport and Cities at Coventry University. The centre has deep, historic and regional links to the transport industry, with organisations such as Jaguar Land Rover and Horiba MIRA. NTDC has key research strengths around user-led and inclusive transport design and is highly integrated into an interdisciplinary, transport research community.
Speaking at the event, on behalf of the funder, Motability, Rachael Badger, Director of Performance and Engagement, said: “We are delighted to see the launch of the National Centre for Accessible Transport, at Coventry University today. Funded by Motability for the next seven years, the Centre is led by the experiences of disabled people and brings together a wealth of expertise in transport design to broaden the evidence base on inclusive transport, bringing forward new policy and design solutions.
“We know that being unable to make the journeys they want or need to, has a huge impact on disabled people’s daily lives and more needs to be done to help make transport inclusive.
“I look forward to seeing the positive and meaningful changes the Centre will make by working with disabled people, disabled people’s organisations, transport providers and policymakers to make transport accessible for everyone.”
Kay Atkin, who is researching her PhD into accessible transport with Coventry University, said: “The importance of this project is that the research is being informed by disabled people who have lived experience of transport, it’s not just researchers saying I think we should do this or that. There can sometimes be little things that you just wouldn’t think about unless you had that lived experience.
“There’s nothing like this centre at the moment and it’s great to be a part of this research, it’s very exciting.”
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