Smart Cities Accessibility and Inclusion Strategy

The Government of New South Wales (NSW) in a bid to make their cities smarter and more inclusive launched a Smart Cities and Accessibility Challenge. It was coordinated with the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation (DFSI) and Transport for NSW (TfNSW).

The Challenge to innovate for Inclusion

The Challenge focused on the following critical issues affecting people with disabilities when it comes to their access to transport services:

  • Reducing transport disadvantage for people with disabilities in local communities using innovative ideas.
  • Improve journey experience of people with disabilities through information dissemination , services improvement and convenience.
  • Continued engagement with people with disabilities to better understand their needs.
  • Improve partnerships among local councils and other government agencies to limit inaccessibility .

TfNSW and DFSI provided guiding principles to enable businesses, innovators and enterprises to create innovative ideas for smart cities and improve accessibility in communities. Such as:

  • Everything is customer-centred.
  • Accessibility for the entire community.
  • Accessibility in the whole journey including pedestrian, different modes of transport and road network.
  • Decrease in transport disadvantage by proving a multifaceted yet affordable approach to improve public transport services.
  • Engagement of people with disabilities.

The TfNSW Open Data Hub provided the following relevant and significant datasets necessary to improve accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities. Innovators could integrate the datasets to deliver the best possible solution for NSW citizens: 

  • Public Transport – Facilities, Operators
  • Public Transport – Real-time Trip Update
  • Public Transport – Realtime Alerts
  • Public Transport – Timetables

Among the seven finalists, four were chosen as winners and received funding to launch their projects with the following innovative solutions:

  • An app designed to assist people on the spectrum and provide them with real-time assistance through various de-escalation functionalities and notifications on re-routing.
  • Commuter service that matches commuters that are willing to lend assistance for people with disabilities who are taking the journey at the same time.
  • Digital application that improves the travel experience of both passengers and taxi drivers by coordinating payment, subsidies and authorisation with the Government.
  • A personalised trip companion providing real-time information and assists users with a disability to navigate interchanges. There is also real-time guidance at the stations.  

These innovations are the future of transport. Taking the ideas and achieving the outcomes is a challenge initself and delivering the solution takes time. Any dedicated program needs momentum and focus. 

Innovation is important. And we can always do better to deliver results.Data and information may show that there is still a need to bridge the gap. Barriers prevent inclusion for people with disabilities in employment, recreation and better life in their community. We have to validate the solution and innovation that works beyond expectations. We are on the right track. Government institutions and technology businesses and relevant organisations work together consistently.

Technology businesses and Government work hand in hand to bring flexible, affordable and scalable solutions for people in the community. Help each other and understanding the operating procedures.We can create better options to make a real impact because people with disabilities matter.

Based on the 2020 report of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare:

  • 1 in 6 people in Australia are estimated to have a disability
  • 32% of adults with disability experience psychological distress (high or very high)
  • 42% of adults rating their health as poor or fair
  • 10% of working-age people with disability are likely to be unemployed

The report also shows barriers experienced by people with disability in accessing and using health care services:

  • 12% have difficulty accessing medical facilities for general practitioner, dentist or hospital
  • 29% need to wait a or more days to set an appointment for urgent medical care
  • 70% have been waiting for public dental care for a month to more than a year 

We can do better ways to bring in innovation effectively and successfully to lessen inaccessibility issues. 

We need to limit these barriers faced by people with disabilities during independent travel and better access to transport services and amenities. They may struggle using health care services but we can elevate the process with accessibility. Pre-journey planning information is essential. Travelling with a wheelchair requires planning, information on accessible bay area, public amenities and parking accessibilities.

Uncertainty leads to disengagement, but there are action plans and innovative ideas to solve critical issues for accessibility:

  • We can digitise and limit procedural problems and paper document
  • Acknowledge human perspective
  • Provide fair access to needed information and services
  • User-friendliness of the solution
  • Affordable for all
  • Flexible 
  • Scalable 

These are what we are trying to do as an IT consulting company.

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