Designing accessible pathways through the London 2012 Games
At a recent presentation at City Hall, Xavier Gonzalez, chair of the International Paralympic Committee communicated the amazing success of the London Olympic and Paralympic games. London had raised the inclusivity bar for future games, the simple formula for their success was to include disabled people in every part of the planning, design and delivery of the games.
Having an inclusive and diverse workforce, representative of London's population helped shift people's perceptions to understand that people with disabilities have additional skills not less, that they are solution providers not a problem to be resolved.
What's Inclusive Design?
Inclusive Design (Universal Design) is "the design of buildings, products and/or services that are accessible to, and usable by, as many people as reasonably possible without the need for special adaptation. For a design to be inclusive it must respect the needs of people with mobility, visual and hearing impairments, learning difficulties, and people from different cultural and religious backgrounds" (Margaret Hickish, Design 4 Inclusion Ltd).
For the majority of the population smart phones and apps are a daily part of our information consumption, we access technology packed apps seamlessly on slick, must-have handsets.
Consumer purchasing decisions have mainstreamed access features so much so that we don't notice their presence - inclusive design is not an after thought, it's the fundamental part of the design process, the features that increase the accessibility are probably the very features that make it appealing to us all.
Following Xavier's key note speech, Julie Fleck, Margaret Hickish and Caroline Khoo spoke about the inclusive design of the Olympic and Paralympic park and the South Bank, featuring our recent work with the GLA. Presentations were followed by a mayoral reception with Boris Johnson, Lord Seb Coe and Sir Philip Craven MBE, President of the International Paralympic Committee.
It was a great honor to be presented by the amazing people who made the inclusive design of the Olympic and Paralympic games a reality. It was also a home coming of sorts, our first mapping project was commissioned in 2006 along the South Bank to "develop walking maps accessible for more than 1 disability group". Our experience in working inclusively with people with learning disabilities drew us to the attention of Cross River Partnership, who challenged us with the pilot project. People with learning disabilities often have hidden and multiple forms of disability including visual impairment and physical disability, for example they are 10 times more likely to have a visual impairment. Our understanding of the varying levels of learning disability gave us a unique advantage to design a mapping solution, that could provide practical wayfinding support, for all people irrespective of ability, based on a system already used by people with learning disabilities during travel training.
The steering group, already boasting consultants with experience of every form of disability, were then fortunate to be joined by the late David Morris, who was the Mayor's Disability Policy Adviser. David was a visionary, whose life's work pushed advocacy and inclusion way beyond physical and technical boundaries, and told us "accessible information should be fun and not disability specific".
We responded by providing a series of photographic maps and winning a Visit London gold award, these have been hosted on VisitLondon.com until 2012, when our new map authoring toolkit PhotoRoute.com arrived.
Jumping ahead 6 years, modern technologies such as html5 and CSS3 have enabled us to enhance the original concept further to create PhotoRoute. PhotoRoute is a map authoring toolkit enabling people, with and without disabilities, to collaborate on projects to create, edit and share beautifully accessible maps in website, print and embeddable formats, along with online and offline iphone and android formats.
Part of the Greater London Authority's £4 million investment, to enable step-free access along the the South Bank from Tower Bridge and beyond Westminster Bridge, included Enabled City's commission to produce 26 routes linking main transport nodes throughout the improved South Bank Riverside infrastructure, and to create accessible versions of their Stroll Discovery Trails of Wenlock and Mandeville hosted on the Mayor of London Presents website (here from 27 July - 9 September).
Julie Fleck OBE, Advisor on the Paralympics, London 2012 Unit at the Greater London Authority
"The GLA was delighted to collaborate with Enabled City on this project. The flexible nature of this small, innovative company allowed us to complete this project in an efficient timescale without compromising its quality or content. It is always a pleasure to work on projects like this, that benefit such a wide audience and showcase how the Greater London Authority is helping to make the South Bank, and London, a more accessible and inclusive place".
"This is a really good idea: an app from Enabled City for accessible, editable route maps in London, aimed at people with physical and learning disabilities, as well as people speaking English as a second language. That means step-free routes for people using wheelchairs, and photos taken along each route to aid navigation."