A Disability-Inclusive Micromobility Charter

By Christine Hemphill | 1st January 2023

In 2021 Open Inclusion conducted a range of disability-inclusive engagement roundtables about emerging micro-mobility transport options such as electric scooters (eScooters). We did this on behalf of Voi Technologies to better understand how eScooter introduction and use may impact people with a range of access needs, both as users or pedestrians. The conversations were held regionally with groups across different parts of England, Scotland and Ireland. Each included disabled and older community members, disability community leaders, and urban and transport planning professionals from councils or transport organisations.

In addition to hosting the 5 roundtables including 36 individuals, we also conducted a survey of 120 people with a wide range of additional needs from across the UK and Ireland. The majority (just over 100) were people who identified as disabled or older with age-related needs. We also included some parents of very young children with situational access considerations due to pregnancy, pram use, and managing toddlers.

From this research, we developed a report and summarised the key actionable outcomes into a Charter for Micro-Mobility Operators and Stakeholders.

This charter has now been released by Voi Technologies who themselves have committed to;

“Consider and work to address the needs of all people in the local community, regardless of ability or disability, age, and other access needs. We [Voi Technologies] will continue to proactively work with local communities, councils, special interest groups and others to make sure that micromobility is disability-inclusive whilst working to reduce pollution and congestion. This will ensure a more positive and equitable impact is created across the community. This Charter sets out in detail how we go about this.”

How the charter has been received

The charter has been positively received by those in the disability community who want to ensure that the introduction of these new low-carbon emission forms of transport are managed in such a way that they do not have a negative social impact, particularly on those with disabilities.

Dr Amit Patel who was involved as one of the focus group participants said,

“The creation of a practical Charter for the micro mobility sector is an enormous step forward towards ensuring high standards and consistency across systems and operations. These are high level principles that any manufacturer, operator or city could use to support the roll out of micromobility vehicles/e-scooters and in turn will help to ensure that users and citizens have clear expectations of their own and the providers responsibilities – ensuring a better end experience for all road users.

Micro mobility is the future of green travel and my hope is that this Charter will be adopted widely and by the broadest range of stakeholders. I am delighted to have supported Voi through the development of this Charter and to see them leading the way in sustainable micro mobility.”

The draft charter was also reviewed by, and improved with input from disability advocacy organisations such as the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), the Irish Wheelchair Association and Leonard Cheshire.

We welcome those who are working in the area of micro-mobility as operators, manufacturers, local councils, disabled peoples’ organisations and disability advocacy organisations, and transport regulators to read, review and commit to the key principles outlined in the charter.

The principles

There are 4 principles which include a commitment to undertake,

  1. Broad Community Engagement
    • Regularly engage with pan-disability diverse reference groups
    • Regularly engage with the broader community (users and non-users of micro-mobility) and other representative groups (including those with other marginalisation as a result of their socio-economic status, gender, ethnicity or other)
    • Communicate to the broader community
  2. Inclusive Product and Service Design
    • Proactively design products and services that support responsible riding
    • Proactively design products and services that support responsible parking
    • Proactively design products and services that do not exclude disabled users unduly
  3. Collaborate to Develop New Socially Responsible Riding Norms
    • Work with authorities and other providers around new rider learning, rules, behaviour monitoring and consequences, and impact on other transport formats.
    • Collaborate with others across the industry develop inclusive solutions such as a sound, build skills and use technology effectively to promote responsible usage
  4. Innovate to Create Future Cities that are Better for Everyone
    • Work towards integrated transport modes and systems
    • Lowering the environmental, social, safety and other costs of transport

Are you involved or interested in micro-mobility?

Please download the charter and read through the detail.

Do you have comments or additions that you think would be important for this fast-emerging sector from your perspective/s as a pedestrian, micro-mobility transport user (past, current or future), a micro-mobility operator, manufacturer of equipment or developer of app technologies supporting hire eScooters, urban planners or other transport operators or system managers? Please share them with us at contact@openinclusion.com.

Do you wish to commit to the disability-inclusive practices in the charter? These will showcase that you are willing to develop your products or services and operate responsibly in the towns and cities you are bidding for or already operating in. Please make your commitment public, share it with us and align your services to the 4 principles.

Inclusive innovation

As a business, Open is always excited by the potential for emerging technology to improve on what is available today, especially when it comes to finding more environmentally sustainable solutions.

All new technologies however need to be developed with inclusive considerations, community engagement, co-design and co-development as part of their progress to market. This ensures that what benefits some doesn’t come at a cost to others.

We welcome Voi Technology’s leadership in the micro-mobility market to ensure the needs of pedestrians and users with access needs are heard, understood, and designed for and with diverse communities. These communities include those who identify as disabled, are older or have young children generating additional considerations. We are aware that Voi is also working to better understand the needs and differential benefits and costs of those with other characteristics of potential marginalization such as those due to gender, ethnicity or beliefs.