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Disabled people count

Gerri and Roger have been busy working on a new project. A project that is sure to shake up how we count and respond to people with access needs.

You may remember Roger talking about the need for more data. Well, we decided to give the government a hand, by showing them how to do it. We got some funding from the Making a Difference Fund and teamed up with the Traffic Design Group. Together we set out to prove that disabled people can and do count.

The project was simple, count the number of people in a public place over a four hour period. Crucially, we also counted the number of people using a mobility aid. From this, we could get a rough idea of how accessible the place was to people with mobility aids. We picked Hamilton for the project.

We know from the 2006 Census that around 78,300 people over the age of 15 have mobility aids. There were also 11,200 people in 2006 who needed an mobility aid, but did not currently have one. Hopefully, they have one by now. We have an aging population too so the number of people using mobility aids is likely to have increased. Generally, we would expect to see around 3 percent of people using mobility aids.

So how did Hamilton do? Well, we counted a total of 9,525 people, 97 used a visible mobility aid. This is around 1 percent. What is more interesting is the breakdown by place.

Pedestrian numbers and proportion with visible mobility aids at each count site

This is where the great value of the project comes in. The project will hopefully create a tool for the on-going monitoring of how accessible places within cities and towns are. Local and central government can then get a lot smarter about identifying and fixing accessibility issues.

Government planners can use the tool to track down accessibility bottlenecks. The more planners use the tool, the more reliable it becomes. Eventually, planners may be able to use the counting tool, together with consulting accessibility experts,  to quickly and precisely pin point access issues.

For example, if there is a substantial reduction in the number of people with mobility aids using a particular place, planners can look at recent changes. There may have been recent footpath maintenance that accidentally removed accessible curbs or maybe the local bus company has switched to less accessible buses for the nearby route.

That is just our ideas. I am sure there will be great uses for the project that we have not even thought of. That is where you come in. What do you think about the project? How can we use the project to create a more accessible community?