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									 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.
                                abek@certh.gr

                             Gaitanidou, Evangelia,
     Centre for Research and Technology Hellas/Hellenic Institute of Transport
       6th Km Charilaou-Thermi Rd., 57001, Thermi, Thessaloniki, Greece.
                                 lgait@certh.gr

                               Spanidis, Pavlos,
     Centre for Research and Technology Hellas/Hellenic Institute of Transport
       6th Km Charilaou-Thermi Rd., 57001, Thermi, Thessaloniki, Greece.
                               spanidis@certh.gr



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.

								
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