RiDC (Research Institute for Disabled People) is launching the UK’s first Evidence Centre for Inclusive Transport to work with disabled people, disability organisations, transport providers, and policymakers to both undertake research and develop solutions that aim to make transport accessible for everyone.

The Evidence Centre aims to transform the transport sector’s understanding of disabled peoples’ experiences of transport. It will also take the opportunity of emerging technology advances in transport and low carbon ambitions to improve the accessibility and reliability of transport for disabled people.

RiDC is working in collaboration to develop and run the Evidence Centre with Coventry University; Designability; and organisations Connected Places Catapult, Policy Connect, and WSP UK, with grant funding from Motability of £20 million over seven years.

Paul Herriotts, Professor of Transport Design in the Centre for Future Transport and Cities at Coventry University, said: “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.”

The centre will convene disabled people and decisionmakers to drive for systems-level change, helping realise Motability’s vision that no disabled person is disadvantaged due to poor access to transport.

According to Motability’s Transport Accessibility Gap Report, disabled people make 38 percent fewer journeys than non-disabled people – a figure that has not changed in the last decade. The “transport accessibility gap” shows that there is much more that transport providers need to do to make sure that disabled people can travel by road, rail, and air with ease.

RiDC will play a key part in engaging disabled people and ensuring they are front and centre of future disability and transport strategy, policy, and practice. This will include developing and managing the CAT (Community for Accessible Transport) platform, user engagement, and providing a synthesis of existing research publications.

Phil Friend, Chair of Trustees at RiDC, commented: “RiDC has a fifty-year history in improving the consumer experience of disabled people and we are thrilled to be part of this consortium.

“We know there is no ‘one-size fits all solution’ here, and in working on the Evidence Centre we will be objective, independent and driven by the evidence.

“Our role is to ensure that it is disabled people themselves who express what’s needed, so we avoid ‘reinventing a bad wheel’ – as one of our panel commented.”

“The time is ripe, and we look forward to working on an initiative that we hope will improve the lives of the UK’s 14 million disabled people exponentially.”

Barry Le Grys, Chief Executive of Motability the charity, added: “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.”

The Evidence Centre is expected to launch in early 2023.

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