Podcast – Inclusive innovation in travel and transport

By Christine Hemphill | 25th November 2019

This month we have part one of two excellent vodcasts (or podcasts if you prefer) on a subject that is very close to our hearts at Open Inclusion. It looks at how innovation could be leveraged for greater inclusion in travel and transport. In this episode, David Banes and Prof. Joseph Giacomin are our two highly respected, interesting and engaging guests discussing their perspectives on this important and dynamic topic.

We wanted to uncover more about this industry area and how innovation is shaping it as we have been working very actively in inclusive transport for the past few years. We see three key truths that make this a very timely discussion to be opening up and sharing a broad range of voices and ideas in.

  1. Transport is a key enabler for participation as it can block or allow people to get to school, university, workplaces, health or other facilities as well as social gatherings and activities. 
  2. With so many major new emerging technologies and business model innovations arriving in this industry area, including increasing vehicle autonomy, mobility-as-a-service, electric vehicles, multi-modal journey planning tools, new travel modes of varying sizes and ranges, even robotics and AI, it is a very fluid time where transformational change will happen and improvements could be made.
  3. Inclusion of people with specific access needs such as permanent or temporary impairments could improve, stay static or even dramatically decline as these changes take place. This will depend on whether innovators, manufacturers and service providers actively engage with and deeply understand the real range of diverse needs and perspectives while defining their “user requirements” and in testing how well their offering meets them.     

David Banes

David Banes and Open Inclusion have collaborated many times in the past. Most recently he and Christine were co-authors of a paper for the World Health Organisation on how to improve assistive technology policy choices by better combining research methods (quantitative and qualitative). He has a very deep background in accessibility and inclusion, and for a number of years has focussed his efforts in middle and low-income countries. He looks to identify how effective innovation and change in the context of different resource constraints can improve the social and economic inclusion of people with disabilities. 

Prof. Joseph Giacomin

Joseph is a Professor of Human-Centered Design (HCD) at Brunel University in London. He is also ex-Head of the Human Factors Research Centre at the Fiat Car Company in Italy. He has some fascinating insights into vehicle autonomy and the need to engage designers and businesses working in these fields now to ensure that the products and services are inclusive by design.

Please have a listen and enjoy these two interviews!

Our next podcast episode will continue this theme with a couple more exciting speakers from very different perspectives again, ranging from solution designers to service providers. Keep tuned as it will follow before the end of the year!

If you prefer to listen to the interview as a downloadable podcast, please find it here on Podbean.

Podcast version of the interview

A few highlights from David

David has great stories he shares. One of my favourites is the use of a drone to get medicines to a village on the other side of a lake to the hospital in Pakistan. The roads get blocked in the rainy season and the lake is just a kilometer or two across. Smart new solutions to old problems that completely avoids the cost and challenge of fixing the infrastructure – in this case, the road.

He also talks powerfully about the importance of understanding the accessibility throughout end-to-end journeys, particularly in more difficult environments such as major cities in countries where there is less infrastructure available. He reminds us that technology alone can’t solve the problem. The relationship between the physical environment, the informational environment and the technologies that can be made available is critical. He and Martyn cover this topic off in controversial areas such as exoskeletons and the balance between human augmentation and getting the environmental basics right. They agree that this isn’t an “either-or”. It is about providing options that people can choose from as best suits their needs and preferences. He earned our “understatement of the year award” with this great quote!

“Just applying technologies without understanding context, tends not to work very well”

A few highlights from Joseph

Joseph identifies the move from 100 years of incremental design changes in transport to an era of transformational changes. That requires us to be much clearer on what the purpose and goals of the user as assumptions from the past may no longer hold true. He also uses wheelchairs to illustrate the broader point that design segmentation to many sub-markets from functional to luxury will create a wider range of options (for a price!). However, like the luxury car market, this will drive innovations that over time can benefit many. The blend of functional and aesthetics with be many and varied to suit different users and their preferences and individual needs.

“It is hard not to feel that the technical bit, the science bit will be sorted because humans are creative and intelligent and clever. Then the problem becomes a slightly different one, which is how do we know we will get it right for people. And how we know it’s going to be inclusive”

That brings it back to human-centered design. This puts different users, what they value, how they may use it and how it solves for their specific needs in varying ways – both transport needs but also higher-level needs such as social connection, leisure, pleasure, identity and sense of style at the heart of the design.

We agree! Understanding how different those needs can be across any community, and helping businesses create innovative transport solutions that can have considered those needs and included them is the very core of what Open Inclusion is working on in this industry space.

Would you like to know more?

Open Inclusion has been involved in innovation for inclusion in travel and transport for 5 years now. We have provided insight and solutions across rail, bus, air and multi-modal transport options. Most recently we have been involved in a couple of highly innovative projects combining smart city technologies, digital wayfinding and inclusive service design in airports, multi-modal journey planning and rail stations.

If you are interested in speaking with us about how we could help your business through inclusive research, design support, market size or integration of emerging technologies to make services better for all, including those with disabilities, please contact us.

If you are interested in reading more, you can also see Graham Armfield’s blog article linked here on the provision of assisted service for a rail journey his parents took last year.