Case Study: Access to Urban Transportation System for Individuals with Disabilities

Original Date: February 2, 2018

Lyssa Gagné
7 min readAug 3, 2019

Executive Summary

This case study analysis identifies the current practices and guidelines for accessible design of transportation by looking at the United States, United Kingdom and Hong Kong. This focuses on planning and forecasting for aging populations in these distinct areas of modern society.

Currently half the world’s population is living in urban areas and it is expected to increase significantly by 2050. Asia is one of the leading concentrations of growth in urban population. Over the next 20 years, Hong Kong and UK population over 65 years old is expected to double with the US reaching the same rate within thirty years (p. 67).

Modern society is facing an increasingly significant issue when it comes to urbanization. As the population increases the built environment and access to essential facilities and services may not be as supportive in the means of providing access to all, it may not be as sympathetic to the needs of vulnerable groups that include the elderly and individuals with disabilities, and transportation may not accommodate individuals with different disabilities. Barrier-free design and the seven principles of universal design will be used in this report to analyze the information and to prepare a better solution.

The study suggests that elderly and persons with disabilities with better access to transportation will have an increase in their mobility and social participation with an overall positive perspective towards the quality of life. There is an enhanced awareness when it comes to accessibility needs in policy, legislation and procedures for strategic urban transportation planning. Improvement of community integration for all will be solved through physical and physiological perspectives.



The built environment and access to essential facilities and services are not supportive enough to provide access to all especially with the increase population and traffic. Take into consideration the sidewalk measurements in table one in the case study and the material presented in Appendix A. In order to address the access to essential urban resources and services the space needed by a variety of people needs be taken into consideration. The information presented in Appendix C indicates that the minimum width allocated for sidewalks in the US, UK, and Hong Kong are not as serviceable as they need to be. The US leans favourably to a slimmer width that may not accommodate some of the people with needs listed in Appendix A. The minimum standard for both US and Hong Kong cannot accommodate passing traffic.


There is not enough commiseration towards those who are vulnerable such as the elderly and persons with disabilities. An example would be the calculations in regards to the elevator space and its entrance clearspace. This can be visually represented in Appendix D using the sizes found in Appendix B for mobility devices. The minimum standards for US, UK, and Hong Kong do not allow enough room for one person using either a wheeled walker, manual wheelchair, and electrical wheelchair to turn. Majority of elevator controls are placed at the entrance of the elevator and in this scenario the individual would have to prop themselves in a position, more than likely uncomfortable, to use the controls. The individual would then have to back up in order to exit the elevator space. The minimum clearance for the entrance in the UK and Hong Kong are not wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair at 900mm (90cm) depicted in Appendix A. If the minimum standards are not conductive to the economy and to the actual people that do need them. It would be ideal to accommodate as many people as possible, whether they are all individuals with space requirements, to reduce the cost in electricity to run it.


Individuals with different disabilities such as visual, auditory, speech and mobility impairment may not find the best accommodations when it comes to design, construction, management and operation of transportation. It would be cost prohibitive to have every bus stop fully equipped for all accessibility aids for transportation. There are no specified minimum requirements except for physical mobility elements such as ramps, landings, platforms, distances between bus stops and shops. In regards to railway platforms the US is the only one that protects platform edges with screens and guards. If there are no screens and guards they use tactile warning. The UK does not include screens and guards but has a detailed warning using a white line and tactile warning strips. Hong Kong fails to provide minimum standards for railway safety.


There are several solutions that should be consider in regards to this case study analysis. There needs to be an increase in the space needed by different people with special mobility needs. In denser populated areas, there should be accommodations for two people side by side. Increasing the minimum width of the sidewalk will definitely help accommodate high levels of traffic which is beneficial to all that travel on footpaths. As urban population increases the area becomes more densely populated, expensive, and highly sought after. It may be a struggle or not feasible to expand the sidewalks. Planning for the future something that needs to be addressed.

One technical solution would be to create an app for a mobile and/or tablet device. This app would allow users to check on the progress of their journey through GPS, help physically connect to someone or allow the user to speak to them through the app, provide updated information about times, and allow users to scan objects to get audible information.

The app would target the barriers of orientation by focusing on the two-sense principle. If the user has visual impairments they can at least hear and touch/feel and if they cannot hear they can at least have sight and touch/vibration. The setup of an app might potentially be expensive however in the long run it would be cheaper to maintain. The elderly may not know how to use a cellphone let alone an app. The app would have to be simple and intuitive by eliminating unnecessary complexity, have consistency, and accommodate a wide range of literacy and language skills.

Another technological solution would be to have an interactive navigation board, with a moveable stand, that the user can interact with. There is a possibility that the elderly would be more inclined to use it as it is big and easy to use. The screen will always be in a consistent place and have the ability to move vertically to accommodate height requirements. The screen cannot be moved and users would have to go to the screen in order to get information. There is a chance that the person with accessibility needs are at a location that may not have a screen or it may not be powered which would make it useless. The unit is likely expensive and it would not be an economically friendly idea specially to have it at majority, or all, bus stops.


Society is not moving fast enough to accommodate the stresses of an aging population. The current urban minimum standards for sidewalks, entrances, and elevators cannot accommodate more than one person with special mobility needs. Human-made surroundings may not be sympathetic to the elderly and individuals with disabilities. There may not be adequate accommodation to those with different disabilities such as visual, auditory, speech and mobility impairment. Urban planning and services need to consider barrier-free design, universal design, and accessibility design in order to prepare a better solution.


Creating an app to track one’s journey on public transit will help benefit everyone whether they have a disability or not. It can focus on a variety of senses from touch/feel, hear, sight to touch/vibration. This will help reduce time spent waiting for transit, find a bus stop, track their journey through interval stops and time. The app will be engaging and dynamic with user keeping the app on their cellphones. On a business perspective, the initial price will be large but overtime the app will not cost that much to run. There is no physical upkeep and there is a chance that advertisement can be used to bring in capital.


Overall the app should take four to six months to create. The process should start off with research and brainstorming. Conducting testing such as card sorting and experience prototyping with the target market is key. This will allow the designers to understand what concepts, terms, or features to use and how the users will interact with the app. Once the app has been finalized it should be marketed towards the elderly and those with disabilities using mail and social media. The app budget should range between $500,000 to $1,000,000. A higher-end price will allow for design manipulation and grafting the elements as needed. A lower-end price will have a generic layout and elements which may have the best benefit to those who use it.


Christensen, K. (2017, May 20). Case Study Analysis: Access to Urban Transportation System for Individuals with Disabilities. IATSS Research. Retrieved from ScienceDirect Database.

Martin, B, & Hanington, B. (2018). The Pocket Universal Methods of Design: 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions. MA, USA: Quatro Publishing Group USA Inc.

National Disability Authority. (2014). The 7 Principles. Retrieved February 1, 2018, from

Skiba, I., & Züger, R. (2009). Basics Barrier-Free Planning. Basel: Birkhäuser. Retrieved February 2, 2018, from eBook Collection (EBSCOhost)

Usability First. (n.d.). Principles of Accessible and Universal Design. Retrieved February 2, 2018, from



Lyssa Gagné

A Graphic Designer helping small businesses with brand solutions, visual marketing, and creative strategies.