Transport Associates' Network


Projects - Mobility: Rights, Obligations and Equity in an Ageing Society

Mobility: Rights, Obligations and Equity in an Ageing Society
The changing age profile of our populations across the world and the link with loss of mobility that change brings - is clear and is already being felt.

There are strong economic and social imperatives to ensure that we enable older and disabled people to be as independent as possible for a long as possible. The way that we plan and maintain our urban and rural environments and the way that we design and operate our transport services will have a profound impact on how well we can achieve that goal.

It is clear that legislation can play an important part not least in setting technical standards for accessibility. It is equally clear however that legislation (whether civil rights based or technical) is not enough in isolation. It must be implemented and enforced and it must above all- be understood by all those responsible for it at both policy and practical levels. This is true for both developed and developing countries: although the progress towards accessibility may be at very different rates, the underlying factors that need to be in place for successful delivery are the same.

For developing countries, however, efforts to support disabled and older people need to start at a more fundamental level of providing basic wheelchairs and other aids and, even where there are not paved roads, creating safe pedestrian routes that enable people to move about within their local communities and to contribute to supporting their families or reducing the burden of care on others.

The concept of rights can have little value without a practical basis of understanding and knowledge of the obligations that are part of the package. Integral to that understanding is recognition that meeting the mobility needs of disabled and older people is not a matter of welfare or social policy alone. It is also a matter of good economic sense when it is done on a collaborative basis with other delivery agents (highway authorities etc) and with disabled and older people.

Nonetheless in the economic climate prevailing in many developed countries, the issue of who pays will continue to be debated at both national and local levels. To make sense, however, such a debate needs to take place in the context of the costs of losing mobility in both economic and social terms.

Finally, it is important to recognise that investing in accessibility when such investment is based on sound design principles that can benefit everyone is not a luxury that cannot be afforded. It is a necessity that cannot be ignored.

Contact: Ann Frye.
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