Representing Paths for All in the Making Connections project brought me to Ardrossan with the aim of investigating the connection between the Ardrossan Town train station and the ferry terminal. If you have not heard of Ardrossan before, it is the place you will most likely come to if you want to take the ferry to the Isle of Arran.
Making Connections gathered together disabled people and project partners who have all been working towards creating tool kits so that we can record all the relevant insights about the hindrances and enabling factors when making the journey between the train station and the ferry terminal. This has been a crucial part of the work, in order to make sure that none of the data gets left out and that we are able to efficiently record all of our findings.
In this workshop we went through all the worksheets with participants who have different disabilities, thus they were able to give valuable feedback from different viewpoints. We all shared our experiences when travelling which enriched everyone’s understanding of what might be the potential hindrances on this particular connection in Ardrossan, keeping in mind that the more far reaching aim of the project is to create a more universal model of connections that can be referenced for analysing the connections between different modes of transport in different places.
Together we aim to collect the information about the different accessible design elements that urban designers can implement when planning connections that are suitable for everyone. At the moment we see many “spaces of archaic architecture in between different modes of transport over which nobody is taking responsibility”. And we hope that more and more people might realise that this needs to change.
Above and beyond discussing different design elements, we also came to appreciate that even if the infrastructure is accessible, the services provided by the staff in different transport hubs need to be consistent and reliable. For example, a participant from the deaf community shared that on one of her journeys, when she approached staff for assistance:
“the staff were almost surprised that I was deaf. They were running about in confusion, effectively ignoring me. So, I had to be really assertive and take charge. And I am usually a quiet person, I don’t cause any trouble. But I had to, to get myself safely to the hotel”.
One of the main themes that came from discussions, was the importance of well communicated, consistent information. We should aspire to keep people who need assistance informed about all the developments with regards to their journey, or about what actions are being taken to assist them.
As one participant put it: “Reassurance is an important thing. Knowing what to expect calms me down.”
Another emphasised that it is important to be valued as a person. ”Put yourself in the footsteps of the person you are helping. Offering to assist you to the facilities, getting something from the shops, going somewhere warm and dry – these little gestures make you feel valued as a person. I’m sure all the staff value us, but it is important to show it in action. Just a welcoming conversation and regard for your needs can put a smile on your face”.
During the workshop we saw different difficulties that people with disabilities often have to face when making journeys either to visit friends and family, to see their GP or simply to go on an adventure. Many of the participants unfortunately could describe several really bad journey experiences. They prompted everyone to consider, if these were going to be your experiences when going on a journey, would you have the courage to embark on a journey at all?
This project understands the importance of journeys in people’s lives. Going on journeys is necessary when we are seeking the advice from health professionals, connecting us to our loved ones, and bringing us the sense of wonder as we encounter new places, experiences and relationships. We aspire to encourage and inform the creation of environments surrounding journeys that make all people comfortable and confident, so that they can maintain the beautiful and meaningful connections to the important people and places in their lives.
We are all looking forward to the next workshop, when, hopefully, we can investigate the connection between Ardrossan train station and ferry terminal in greater detail!
Anna Marta Sveisberga is an intern with Paths for All