Whilst using public transportation in the Netherlands, independent users who experience limited mobility due to a physical disability and who rely on the accessibility features of the public transportation, can run into a lot of obstacles. During my graduation internship at Fabrique I worked with 9292, the largest public transportation trip planner, on a way to provide these users with a user friendly and accessible travel experience when using the public transportation.
Using a variety of research methods, I found that public transportation in the Netherlands is not as accessible as it seems. Even though a trip might be accessible due to the availability of accessibility facilities, it is often hard to take into account variable factors such as elevators which are out of service or large crowds you might run into while trying to reach your desired destination. On top of this, accessibility has proven to be very personal and nuanced, making it even tougher to label something as accessible.
Improving the overall accessiblity of public transportation, is a very expensive and lengthy process. Improving the provision of accessibility information is a more viable solution, allowing users to identify potential obstacles up front. This way the expectations of the users can be met or even exceeded, resulting in an accessible public transportation experience.
The concept which will be implemented into the current 9292 app, provides users with personal travel information, which allows them to identify potential accessibility obstacles up front. To be able to recieve this personal travel information, users must first let application know how they travel (wheelchair, cruches, etc.) and what their wants and needs are when traveling (elevators, less crowded routes, etc.).
Besides a short set up flow, the app becomes smarter after traveling. Once a user experiences a trip as (un)accessible, data of the journey can be attached to the users profile. For example:
The 25cm gap between train type B and platform 8 at Rotterdam Centraal Station was unaccessible for this user.
This means future trips with a gap of 25cm between a platform and train type B wil be avoided. However, trips with a gap less than 25cm between a platform and train type B will be labeled as possibly accessible. By repeating this the application can narrow down which trips are the most accessible for the user.
Sketching offered me the possibility to communicate my ideas with users, stakeholders and co-workers. During these sessions, sketch iterations helped me prototype at the earliest stage of the design process, allowing me to identify problems and solve them before I started to create mid-/hi-fi prototypes.
After testing all my sketches, and selecting those on which I can base my wireframes on, I started to create higher fidelity prototypes. These prototypes were then used to test its understandability and its capability to help the users overcome the problem. My findings helped me iterate countless times on the prototype, which helped me create a solid hi-fi prototype for 9292.
With the added accessibility feature (which can be viewed on the right side), users will be able to recieve user friendly personal accessiblity information, allowing them to identify potential accessibility obstacles. Users can view if an elevator is out of service or if the gap between the platform and the train is too large. An unaccessible trip will also be marked in the overview, so users are able to make quick and smart choices.
During a trip, the application will combine the users location data and the public transportation schedules to figure out the ideal moment, which is when the user is not transfering, to ask for accessibility feedback. The feedback will then be used to personalize the accessibility information in greater detail. With this information users are able to identify potential accessibility obstacles before traveling. Because of this, 9292 is able to meet or exceed the users expectation of the trip, thus creating an affordable accessible public transportation experience.
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