As part of our support for local authorities and other bodies to deliver high quality infrastructure that is accessible for all, Sustrans Scotland are hosting a series of online workshop on inclusive design. We have invited people with lived experience from around Scotland to help Sustrans and our partners understand how we can improve our designs and standards to increase accessibility for everyone.
The workshops are intended to be a safe space, where people can discuss the real life issues that they have faced and build working relationships with those designing walking, wheeling and cycling routes.
Session 1 – Inclusive Design
Spaces for People has enabled statutory bodies to implement temporary measures focused on protecting public health and supporting physical distancing.
Due to the nature of this programme, created as an emergency response to Covid-19, successful applicants were encouraged to implement the temporary infrastructure in a timely manner and provide visible improvements that had an immediate benefit. The fast-paced nature of the implementation process, meant that the opportunity for comprehensive community engagement, consultation and communication was limited. With the need for physical distancing during essential journeys still prominent, and no sign of this changing in the near-future, we need to ensure that this temporary infrastructure is designed in such a way that it is inclusive to all.
On Thursday 12th November we were joined by various local authorities, user groups and other stakeholders to discuss the topic of Inclusive Design. This workshop, co-hosted by SCOTS and Sustrans, was the first of the series, whereby delegates heard from individual users on their lived experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as Local Authorities regarding their inclusive design approaches. The format gave delegates the opportunity to meet each other and discuss learning points, improve shared understanding and knowledge, and liaise with transport professionals and users alike.
Three key themes were prominent throughout the workshop – Inclusive Engagement, Inclusive Communication, and how we evolve as this temporary infrastructure becomes longer-term.
Attendees agreed that during the engagement process, often the same voices are heard. It’s imperative that engagement reaches the unheard voices, providing equal opportunities for all to engage from the beginning and throughout the project lifespan. Other inclusive engagement suggestions included making use of British Sign Language during online engagement, and looking for alternatives to using maps and designs for people who are visually impaired.
There needs to be a long-term change to how we communicate, thinking about how to inform everyone of changes. Perhaps this is an opportunity to update corporate communications strategies to be more inclusive. Frequent communication with access panels, QR codes and the use of digital technology to communicate were also suggestions given during this workshop.
Temporary Infrastructure in the longer-term
It was recognised by attendees that although the temporary interventions were implemented as an emergency response to Covid-19, these interventions are now longer-term, with an opportunity for all local authorities to consider this a learning process and adjust accordingly for the future.
Session 2 – Inclusive Communication
On Thursday 4th March we were joined again by various local authorities, user groups and other stakeholders, this time to discuss the topic of Inclusive Communication. In this workshop delegates heard from Hussein Patwa, who reminded delegates of the basics when it comes to communication – who, why, what, when, and where. We were joined by James Davidson, Communications and Research Co-ordinator at Disability Equality Scotland (DES) who shared insight into DES’ Inclusive Communication Hub and the Six Principles of Inclusive Communication.
Delegates then heard from individual users on their lived experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic and Aberdeen City Council shared their lessons learnt from their Spaces for People interventions. Again, the format gave delegates the opportunity to meet each other and discuss learning points, improve shared understanding and knowledge, and liaise with transport professionals and users alike.
This session highlighted key discussions around identifying quick wins, sharing lessons learnt, understanding the importance of working relationships, as well as inclusive engagement and consultation. This includes, but isn’t limited to:
- Avoid jargon
- Avoid information overload
- Using alt text and explaining images
- Using simple language
- Suitable fonts, colours and contrasts
- Shadowing people to understand their perspective
- Many maps and diagrams are not accessible
- Don’t assume because you have communicated you have been understood
- Consider the needs of people with neurodivergent conditions
- Working closely with access groups
- Importance of collaboration with people with different communication support needs
- Making the most of critical friends
- Setting up advisory groups of people with disabilities linked to council departments
Engagement and Consultation
- Engaging from the start of the process through as many means as possible
- Engagement should be prepared well in advance for fast-delivered projects
- Improved understanding of BSL communication for engagement
- EqIAs should be participatory
- If people aren’t at a consultation, perhaps it’s because they can’t access it
- Use various channels to speak to as many people as possible