ACCESS 2 ALL PROJECT: BEST PRACTICES DATABASE FOR ACCESSIBLE TRANSPORTATION Bekiaris, Evangelos, Centre for Research and Technology Hellas/Hellenic Institute of Transport 6th Km Charilaou-Thermi Rd., 57001, Thermi, Thessaloniki, Greece. firstname.lastname@example.org Gaitanidou, Evangelia, Centre for Research and Technology Hellas/Hellenic Institute of Transport 6th Km Charilaou-Thermi Rd., 57001, Thermi, Thessaloniki, Greece. email@example.com Spanidis, Pavlos, Centre for Research and Technology Hellas/Hellenic Institute of Transport 6th Km Charilaou-Thermi Rd., 57001, Thermi, Thessaloniki, Greece. firstname.lastname@example.org SUMMARY The overall aim of the ACCESS2ALL FP7 EC co-funded project is to define concrete mobility schemes, guidelines and policy recommendations, ensuring accessibility of Public Transport to ALL users, through the coordination of current research efforts, the production of common research roadmaps, the identification of best practice models and the appropriate use of ICT aids and networks. Within this concept, the creation of a best practices database is envisaged, which will include descriptions of existing best practices in the provision of accessible transportation services for all, respecting the needs of mobility impaired people. The aim is to identify and collect good (and bad, as examples to avoid) practices from all over the world, addressing transportation needs and solutions for different modes of transportation and different accessibility needs and structure them in an online, public database. The concept of the creation of the on-line best practices database is defined, primarily, by the identification and collection of relevant best practices, which is performed by literature and previous research review of existing PT (Public Transport) services and selection of the ones that have been evaluated as best practices or are considered as innovations that are expected to promote the accessibility of all users to public transport services. After collecting these practices, they are structured into a public online database, hosted in the ACCESS 2 ALL project website (www.access-to-all.eu). The database is constructed in the form of a web based front end, providing all the required functionalities, through adequately selected technologies. The preliminary collection resulted in a set of 35 database entries, which address to most of the user groups and transportation modes that are of interest within the project. The database has gained positive evaluation by external to the project experts regarding its usefulness and usability. Moreover, the collected best practices are being evaluated by experts participating in the project, in order to assess their potential and decide on whether or not to be finally included in the database. This database will offer the possibility to all associated groups, i.e. public transport providers, researchers, associations of mobility impaired people, decision makers, politicians, general public, etc., to consult it and retrieve information on existing and emerging best practices on accessibility on public transport for all its users. It also constitutes the basis for further work elaborated within the ACCESS2ALL project, such as the suggestion of priority implementation scenarios. The overall aim is to provide a useful tool, which would contribute in rendering public transport more friendly and easy to use by all members of the society. Key Words: public transport, accessibility, disabled, database, ACCESS2ALL PURPOSE OF THE STUDY 1. The problem Equality of citizens is a recognised right since many years ago [UN, 1948]. It constitutes a right that is implied in several areas of the human activity, such as politics, health, education, work, etc. Mobility is one of the areas whose importance is constantly growing throughout the years. People need to move and their mobility depends and satisfies a wide range of needs (professional, recreational, educational, etc.). Although mobility is a need to which all people have the same rights, there are certain societal groups for which moving is not a simple issue and for which their right for mobility is not treated appropriately in terms of equality [EU, 2000]. These groups are facing some kind of mobility impairment, which may be of different nature. People on a wheelchair, elderly, illiterate, visually impaired, people facing psychological or physiological problems or even a mother with baby cot, are only few of the groups who are everyday confronted with numerous limitations concerning their mobility. More specifically, to what concerns public transport, which is a social provision addressed to all members of a society, everyone should have the same access and opportunities to use it, which unfortunately is not currently the case. As the societal groups that are facing this kind of problems are continuously growing in population [COST 335], this is becoming a crucial problem over the years. 2. Overall aim of the ACCESS2ALL project In this concept, ACCESS2ALL FP7 EC co-funded project [ACCESS2ALL Consortium, 2007] is working towards the definition of concrete mobility schemes, guidelines and policy recommendations, ensuring accessibility of Public Transport to all users. This is attempted through the coordination of current research efforts, the production of common research roadmaps, the identification of best practice models and the appropriate use of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) aids and networks. In this context, it is aimed to encourage Public Transport operators to adopt innovative technological concepts and mobility schemes that enable high quality mobility and transportation services for all, as well as to provide their personnel with the necessary knowledge on the particularities of specific user groups. 3. Creation of a best practices database on accessibility in Public Transport One of the main objectives of ACCESS2ALL is the creation of a best practices database, which includes descriptions of existing best practices in the provision of accessible transportation services for all, respecting the needs of people suffering from mental or physical disabilities. The aim is to identify and collect good (and bad, as examples to avoid) practices worldwide, addressing transportation needs and solutions for different modes of transportation and different accessibility needs and structure them in an online, publicly available database. MATERIALS AND/OR METHODS 1. Collection of best practices The first step towards the creation of the best practices database is the collection of best practices. To this, however, some background work is preliminary needed. So, before starting collecting the best practices, within the ACCESS2ALL project, the addressed user groups have been investigated and clustered into categories [Alauzet et. al., 2009]. Moreover, extensive review of the needs of these groups in terms of public transport mobility has been performed, identifying their special needs and major confronted problems. Having this work as a guide, the best (and bad) practices collection has been initiated. For this reason, a special template has been created where multiple data entries were specified. These data entries have been selected so as to thoroughly describe each best practice and provide as much information possible in a practical and concise manner. More specifically the template contains the following fields: Title Type of practice (best/worst) Status (existing/verified/new) Date of reference Source Country of implementation Short description Evaluation level (empirical/test report with user involvement, test report without user involvement) Reference User groups addressed Transportation modes addressed Issues addressed Stakeholders involved/affected Standardization aspects Comments Relevant cost indicators Keywords By using this template all experts participating in the project were involved in identifying good and bad practices from the international literature or previous research activities or even by experience in their own countries. This template has been used also for the development of the entry form of the online database. 2. Technical implementation of the database Extensive research has been undertaken on the technologies that could be used for the development of the ACCESS2ALL Best Practices Database. It has been decided that the tools to be applied had to be flexible, well supported and widely used. HTML, PHP and CSS are the languages and technologies commonly used for the development of dynamic websites. All of them are open source and/or have free license, which makes them the most popular and well known technologies. Thus, these technologies, along with MySQL, have been selected as the most suitable ones for the development of the ACCESS2ALL Best Practices Database. As, the best practices database is a dynamic tool, HTML (HyperText Markup Language) [W3C, 2009b] and CSS (Cascade Style Sheets) [W3C, 2009b] have been used for the development of the user interface. This is the layout of the database where the user can interact with its actual functionalities. This interaction is totally based on PHP (PHP Hypertext Preprocessor) [PHP, 2009], which is the language that provides all the dynamic functionality to the database. Additionally, MySQL (My Structured Query Language) [MySQL, 2009] is the engine where the exchanged information between the user and the database is stored to and/or retrieved from. It should also be pointed out that the development of the ACCESS2ALL Best Practices Database has followed a number of accessibility rules (i.e. WAI – AA [W3C, 2009c]) of W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) in order to assure its unobstructed use by all, regardless of accessibility restrictions. 3. Structure of the database As regards to the overall database structure [Gaitanidou et. al., 2009], the database is hosted in a dedicated section of the ACCESS2ALL website and is, for the moment, in a password protected area which can be accessed only by project partners. Once the assessment of the best practices is finalised, the whole database will be publicly available through the ACCESS2ALL website (www.access-to-all.eu). Upon entering the ACCESS2ALL Database area the user has the following options: Best practice entry form Delete an existing practice Edit an existing practice Search best practice database DB statistics As mentioned above, the best practice entry form has been based on the data collection template. The layout of the entry form can be seen in Figure 1. The access to this function will continue being password protected even after the database becomes publicly available. Regarding the “delete an existing practice” function, when selected, the user is guided to a different window where he/she can delete one or more of the best practices that he/she has entered into the database. In the same sense, each authorized user is able to edit a best practice that he/she has entered into the database, through the “Edit an existing practice” option. The access to these functions will also continue being password protected even after the database becomes publicly available Figure 1: Layout of best practice entry form The following two functions constitute the public part of the database. The “Search the Best Practice DB” function, allows the user to perform search queries to the database, in order to come up with the results of interest. The queries can be performed by several criteria, such as country, evaluation level, user group, transportation mode, mobility issue, stakeholders involved, keywords and all possible combinations. This function is illustrated in Figure 2. After performing the query, a list of the matching results is displayed, providing basic information for each of them. More detailed information for each of the retrieved best practices can be obtained by clicking the “Detailed view” button. A new window opens where all available information for the specific practice is provided. Finally, in the DB statistics section, certain statistical information is provided regarding the contents of the database, e.g. current number of entries, evaluation levels of entries, share of users groups/transportation modes addressed, etc. Figure 2: The search function of the ACCESS2ALL Database RESULTS OR EXPECTED RESULTS 1. Contents of the database After constructing the best practice database, access rights have been provided to the project partners in order for them to use the database for entering best practices, as well as to provide comments on its use and functionality. Apart from the best practices collected by each partner’s national or international experience, the best practices that have been collected within the context of other project activities have as well been included. Currently, there are 35 database entries. These refer to a wide range of user groups (see Figure 3), with the majority addressing wheelchair users (74.29%) and vision impaired users (68.57%). It should of course be noted that each practice may address more than one user groups. As far as transportation modes are concerned (see Figure 4), most of the practices collected refer to bus (57.14%), followed by train (48.57%) and metro (34.39%), while none so far is referring to trucks. Regarding the evaluation level of the best practices that have so far been included in the ACCESS2ALL database, only 20% is accompanied by a relevant test report in which users were also involved in the evaluation of the practice. User groups Stakeholders 11,43 Factors leading to social exclusion 17,14 Anthropometric features 20 Age-related declines in abilities 51,43 Communication producing and receiving difficulties 42,86 Hearing impairment 51,43 Vision impairment 68,57 Cognitive impairment 42,86 Psychological impairment 42,86 Physiological impairment 54,29 Upper body impairment 45,71 Upper limb impairment 45,71 Wheelchair users 74,29 Lower limb impairment 62,86 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 % Figure 3: ACCESS2ALL Best Practice database statistics on addressed user groups Transportation modes Multimodal 17,14 Transportation Hubs (Terminals) 20 Ship 11,43 Truck 0 Private car 8,57 Airplane 5,71 Train 48,57 Metro 34,29 Bus 57,14 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 % Figure 4: ACCESS2ALL Best Practice database statistics on transportation modes involved The collection of best practices and their inclusion in the ACCESS2ALL database is an ongoing procedure which will continue throughout the duration of the project. Moreover, within the framework of the cooperation with the Mediate FP7 CA, the best practices that are collected from Mediate will also be included in the ACCESS2ALL best practices database. 2. Preliminary assessment by users In order to gain insight on the acceptance, the good functionality and the usability of the best practices database, a thorough presentation of the database has taken place during the 1st ACCESS2ALL Workshop which was realised in Porto, on September 2009. The workshop participants were thereafter asked to assess the database in terms of several parameters through a feedback form which was provided to them. In total, 12 feedback forms have been filled in and collected. Their answers were analysed and the results of the analysis are summarised below [Gaitanidou et.al., 2009]. Most of the participants (67%) stated that they were aware of good/bad practices on accessibility in public transport and more than half of them were willing to contribute to the ACCESS2ALL database. Regarding their assessment of the usefulness of the database, the participants were asked to rate usefulness of the database on a 0-10 scale. The assessment was very positive, as more than 90% among them rated it with more than 8, while 58% gave a rating of 9 or 10. As for the usability of the database, the participants were again asked to rate on a 0-10 scale. Usability was also positively assessed, as 50% rated it with more than 8 and an overall 84% with more than 6. Finally, 92% of the participants stated that they would certainly use the database for retrieving information on accessible PT best practices, once publicly available. 3. Assessment of Content The collection of best practices is an activity that is ongoing throughout the whole duration of the project. However, there should be a control of the quality of these practices that are gathered from literature or other sources, in order to assure for the consistency and reliability of the database. In this concept, it was decided that a task force should be created, in which five experts from the ACCESS2ALL consortium are participating, and which would have the responsibility to assess the suggested best practices and indicate which of them should be publicly available through the ACCESS2ALL best practices database. The work of this task force will be performed periodically (every 3 months). To facilitate the work of this task force, a checklist has been created by the authors, the so called “Best practices assessment checklist”, defining the criteria and the factors to be taken into account when assessing each best practice and inviting the task force members to give a rating for each of the criteria. More specifically, four main criteria have been selected in terms of assessing the collected best practices, namely: Applicability range, referring to the number of instances that the practice has been applied and the duration of the application Evaluation level, referring to whether the practice has been evaluated through testing with actual users, how many of them, of which user groups and whether there is a publicly available evaluation report. Acceptance level, referring to whether this practice has been recognized by other projects and/or users organizations, whether it has been proposed for a standard and of which type. Extendibility level, referring to the possibility of transferring this practice also to other areas/locations (in terms of geographical transferability) or for other user categories, transport modes, traffic environments and which. For each of these criteria the task force member should rate each suggested practice in a 0-5 scale (0: not adequate for best practice, 5: high level best practice) and, finally, an overall rating is requested together with possible suggestions for improvement and the authorization for the practice to be included in the ACCESS2ALL best practices database. Through the periodic assessment of the suggested practices, it is intended to keep control of the contents of the database, thus aiming to provide its users with useful, high quality and easy to use information. DISCUSSION The ACCESS2ALL best practices database is an attempt to create a practical tool which will be of use for PT providers, stakeholders and policy makers, in order for them to easily and effectively reach information on previously applied practices which contributed in making public transport of a most accessible nature for all users. The overall target behind this is to offer equal opportunities to all the members of the society to move in an independent and respectful to their special needs manner. The database has been structured in a clear way, with separate functions for entering, editing, deleting and retrieving data, and specified accessibility rights to the different types of its users. The content has been collected through an extensive review of literature and previous research and is being assessed in order to ensure its high quality. Moreover, the usefulness and usability of the database has been tested with external to the project experts and has received a very positive rating, which indicates the future acceptance of the tool by its possible users and its potential to actually succeed in its original goals. CONCLUSION The research that has been performed on the background of this work, as well as the continuously updating strategy, are aiming to provide accurate and up-to-date information in a user friendly way. Moreover, the cooperation with other related research initiatives, as the Mediate project, will ensure the enrichment of data and the cooperation of research in the area. Additionally to the best practices, it is foreseen to also attach to the database a software tool currently being developed in ACCESS2ALL, within the context of the TRANSPORTABILITY model development [Gaitanidou et.al., 2009]. This would assess the accessibility level of PT vehicles, stations and hubs, as part of an overall assessment of the accessibility of a route, and according to the results, relevant best practices would be proposed in view of making the route (and involved infrastructure) of a higher accessibility nature. Finally, this collection of best practices, in combination with the identification of user needs have been the basis for the definition of priority implementation scenarios, to be proposed at the end of the project. REFERENCES ACCESS2ALL Consortium. 2008. “Mobility Schemes Ensuring Accessibility of Public Transport for All Users”, Grant agreement No: 218462, Annex I – Description of Work. Alauzet, A., Dejoux, V., Simoes, A., Rocci, A. 2009. “User needs and preferences per user group”, Deliverable 1.1, ACCESS2ALL project. COST Action 335. 1999. Passengers’ Accessibility of Heavy Rail Systems. Final Report of the Action. European Commission, Directorate General of Transport. European Union. 2000. “Charter of fundamental rights of the European Union”, Official Journal of the European Communities, 2000/C 364/01. Gaitanidou, E., Panou, M., Chalkia, E., Kesidou, E., Agnantis, K. 2009. “Best practices database and Transportability s/w tool”, Deliverable 1.2, ACCESS2ALL project. MySQL. 2009. “MySQL - Why MySQL”, Online, Available from http://www.mysql.com/why-mysql/, Accessed on 2 June 2009. PHP. 2009. “HyperText Preprocessor”, Online, Available from http://www.php.net/manual/en/ , Accessed on 5 June 2009. UN. 1948. “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/, Accessed on 19 February 2010. W3C. 2009. “Cascade Style Sheets”, Online, Available from http://www.w3.org/Style/CSS/, Accessed on 7 June 2009. W3C. 2009a. “HTML & CSS”, Online, Available from http://www.w3.org/standards/webdesign/htmlcss, Accessed on 5 June 2009. W3C. 2009b. “HTML Specifications”, Online, Available from http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/, Accessed on 5 June 2009. W3C. 2009c. “W3C-Level Double-A Conformance to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0”, Online, Available from http://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG1AA- Conformance, Accessed on 5 June 2009.
Pages to are hidden for
"Checklist for a Webdesign Project - Download as DOC"Please download to view full document