Navigating roadworks can be disorientating and even hazardous for people with a disability and this matter can go overlooked by roadworks contractors and manufacturers. This is why on August 23rd Oxford Plastics, hosted the inaugural Disability in Roadworks: Awareness Day.
The awareness day brought together people with visual, hearing, and mobility impairments that used canes, guide dogs, hearing aids, manual and electric wheelchairs, and motorised scooters when travelling through roadworks. Members of the local council and people from the street works industry were also present to discuss accessibility in roadworks. Event organisers, Oxford Plastics, set up a roadworks demonstration area outside of University of East Anglia’s student union. There was a range of currently-used temporary street furniture and innovative, new products, which attendees were encouraged to travel through. Throughout the day people within the industry and people with disabilities discussed the layout and application of roadworks, and how to work together to make them accessible and practical for all parties.
Dr Katherine Deane of UEA spoke to people at the Awareness Day. Dr Deane is working closely with the National Joint Utilities Group (NJUG) to create best practice guidance and a training program for roadworks contractors. “The aim is to improve the design and set up of roadworks in order to ensure they are really accessible”, said Dr Deane. Paul Braddy, Sales Director at Oxford Plastics said “there can be a tendency for contractors and utility companies to prioritise the flow of traffic, and not the accessibility of pedestrians. Feedback from the day shows that more dialogue is necessary among the public who travel through roadworks and those who set them up. On the day the primary concern for Industry representatives was having space to undertake work, whereas the priority for charity representatives was to have knowledge of the scale and layout of a roadworks site.”
According to research undertaken on the day, a key finding was that more communication is needed. The public find that roadworks are not labelled clearly and that the length and layout of roadworks should be explained online and/or on-site. All groups saw the importance of educating workers on equipment, legislation and the needs of people with disabilities. “The Disability in Roadworks: Awareness Day shows that there is room for improvement in many areas”, said Charlotte Whiteley, Marketing Coordinator at Oxford Plastics. “This event has been pivotal for all of us at Oxford Plastics, and it will make a difference not just in the products we make, but in our understanding of accessibility.”
40 people the Norwich & Norfolk Councils, Deaf Connexions, Wymondham Access Group, Norwich Access Group, RNIB, NNAB, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Transport for London, Tarmac, Anglian Water, Kier, NJUG, CBRE, MJS Projects and the University of East Anglia were in attendance to address the subject of accessibility.