pproximately 53 million people in the United States have some form of disability, according to the CDC, with 13 percent of them involving mobility. This group often depends on public transit, such as rail, to get around when they can’t use automobiles.
They face challenges when they go to rail stations, ranging from difficulty navigating around crowds of people to safety issues. Here are a few strategies for improving rail station accessibility for people with reduced mobility.
Automating basic functionality in the rail station makes the overall experience easier for disabled travelers. Automated doors and passenger gates eliminate the need to open any of these manually, so no one needs to struggle with this process. People who have difficulty walking need more time to walk through swing doors and gates. The doors need to be equipped with systems capable of identifying people in wheelchairs and extend the time before they close.
Basic functionality such as buying tickets and passes should have a user-friendly system. Make sure it’s accessible by offering several navigation options. For example, voice-activated commands may be easier for someone with a mobility problem in their hands. The system should also identify people who need more time to insert their ticket and provide more time for this process.
All of the information provided on the screen should properly educate the traveler on their different options. When they fully understand the difference between tickets and other services, they don’t have to play guessing games on the right choice for their needs.
Passenger safety is another area to consider, as people with mobility issues are at risk of falling between the quay and the train or getting trapped by the doors if there’s not enough time for them to get on, or the sensors aren’t designed to recognize the additional time requirement.
Passenger Flow Management
Overcrowded rail stations are challenging environments for people with reduced mobility. They may have to wait for elevators, be unable to get through the crowd to escalators and otherwise have difficulties making their way around the station. They may miss their trains on a regular basis due to poor passenger flow management.
Rail stations need to evaluate their current passenger flow management practices, so they can identify the main areas of concern for people with limited mobility. By optimizing the passenger flow, this group has fewer frustrations about traveling through the building. Their safety also improves with better passenger flow.
In the Netherlands, the NS rail system uses BlipTrack, a train station software that uses wireless beacons to track passenger movement and provide useful information for optimizing passenger flow.
The needs of disabled passengers should be of critical importance for rail stations. Mobility issues are one of the most common forms of disability, and
improvements for this demographic also boosts the traveler experience overall. Consider these key areas when determining the necessary changes in the rail station.