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5 Feb 2019

Design School researchers provide expert advice for project which looks to improve the experience of using rail services for people with disabilities

A £1.4 million TOC Ability research and development project released its final report last week, which shows how digital technology can be harnessed to enhance the accessibility and inclusivity of rail services for customers with disabilities.

Working alongside experts from the private and public sector, Loughborough Design School contributed research strengths in User Experience Design and gave their expert advice on the system design from a user perspective.

The system is designed to enhance accessibility to rail services and put accessibility first. Previous research at Loughborough showed that the key problems to current assistance programmes are that users do not have the reassurance that the help would be available when needed.

With TOC Ability, the information is shared between train operators, with a profile of each user, individual texting service and real-time information, making it a more bespoke service.

Tracy Ross, who led the project for Loughborough Design School, commented:

“It was fantastic to be involved in this project; seeing how the customer experience can be improved, by giving the customer the confidence and reassurance that their individual needs for assistance would be met throughout their journey.”

TOC Ability has been developed in partnership with an accessibility panel of people with disabilities that have a range of impairments. The TOC Ability platform was successfully tried and tested by customers with accessibility needs across the UK throughout November 2018.

The trials featured scenarios which disabled passengers regularly experience, on long and short distance train journeys, with routes operated by different Train Operating Companies (TOCs) and interchanges of varying complexity. The feedback from the trial was captured from customers and TOC, then analysed using a robust process developed by the Design School.

Chris Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of Enable ID, which developed the identity governance software that powers TOC Ability, said: “We know from recent government research that on average people with a disability make 88% fewer journeys by rail, while the rail sector faces ever-increasing pressure to enable all passengers to access the network and experience better journeys. TOC Ability can help to overcome this challenge and give disabled customers the confidence they need to travel by train.”

Nick Goss, Managing Director of accessibility consultants Goss Consultancy said: “By making it easier to access assistance at stations and carry out rail journeys, TOC Ability aims to encourage more disabled people to travel with confidence by train. This will make it easier for all customers to access jobs, education, leisure and social activities.”

Other consortium members involved in the project are RSSB, Transport for London, Arriva, Enable ID, Atkins, University of Surrey and Goss Consultancy Ltd

Read the full report here.