The project focuses on accessibility in the traffic environment for people with cognitive functional impairments. The overall aim of the project is to generate basic knowledge about accessibility problems in surface public transport and to develop methodology and present solutions. Society recommends “a travel chain perspective” in order to achieve a public transport system accessible for everyone in 2010. Research hitherto has very much concentrated on physical functional disabilities, whereas people with cognitive functional disabilities have been ignored. As the use of IT increases in society, this group becomes increasingly vulnerable, but knowledge about their problems is insufficient.
The project surveys travel habits, needs and accessibility problems in surface public transport among persons with cognitive functional disabilities. The project is interdisciplinary, including both qualitative and quantitative methods and with a considerable element of user participation. Three doctoral students have worked on different studies. Survey methods based on the Enabler concept and virtual reality technology are important parts of a methodological development.
The primary study group consists of 84 people with cognitive functional impairments after stroke, the majority of them elderly. Almost all had basic mobility capacity and lived in ordinary homes. Results hitherto, based on quantitative data, show that the most common cognitive impairments were attention, language, construction ability and logic. In addition 41% of the studied people also had depression symptoms of such a scope that depression can be suspected, and many also had physical functional disabilities. A third of those who had travelled by bus or train before their stroke travelled to a lesser extent two years later, and almost half did not use bus or train at all then.
People in the target group surroundings, i.e. people with great familiarity with the target group, were interviewed in focus groups. These data reveal that factors in the physical environment have an impact on people with cognitive functional impairments in their use of public transport.
According to the target group, self-confidence, self-image and the desire to be a “normal” citizen affect their possibilities to travel by bus and train. Several barriers that have the potential to restrict autonomous outdoor mobility were identified by the target group using . These barriers were not only represented by well-known infrastructure problems (high pavement curbs, etc.) or ergonomic shortcomings in the buses but, even more so, by specific issues relevant for persons with cognitive functional disabilities, e.g. having to cross a road on their way to the bus stop, which poses problems of interaction with fast moving car traffic. Obtaining all the necessary information prior to and during the trip is difficult and produces insecurity. Often, communication with the bus drivers, not least in connection with the search for information, causes extra stress. Lack of self-confidence and feelings of inferiority add to these problems. Measures to control vehicle speeds, to optimize the communication style of bus drivers with their customers, and to improve customers’ access to information are recommended. Training measures to reassure persons with cognitive functional disabilities in connection with their use of the public space are suggested.
Popularized project description in Swedish
The project started in 2003 and the knowledge from this project has been transferred to a new project “Mobility and Participation Despite Cognitive Disability after Stroke Development of a Rehabilitation Programme Focusing on the Use of Local Public Transport”.
Forte (Swedish Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare)
The Swedish Transport Administration
Vinnova (Research and Innovation for Sustainable Growth)