Transport for London (TfL) have adopted the Healthy Streets Approach to improve air quality, reduce congestion and help make London’s diverse communities greener, healthier and more attractive places to live, work, play and do business. The vision for Equality and Inclusion is that every person matters in keeping London moving, working and growing.
The Equality Act (2010) places a duty to make adjustments:
Where a provision (including information), criterion, practice or physical feature puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter in comparison with persons who are not disabled, to take such steps as it is reasonable to have to take to avoid the disadvantage.
TfL’s Network Management team are working in collaboration with the Diversity and Inclusion team to identify what approaches should be taken during works that removes such disadvantages for people with learning disabilities.
A learning disability can affect the way a person learns new things throughout their lifetime. This could include:
- The way they communicate and understand new or complex information
- Learning new skills
- Being able to cope independently
A learning disability can be mild, moderate or severe. Some people with mild learning disabilities can live independently but may take longer when learning new skills. Others may not be able to communicate at all. There are approximately 1.5 million people in the UK that have a learning disability and 350,000 with a severe learning disability. This number is increasing (NHS, 2018).
To ensure we consider everyone during construction it is important to understand the barriers to access people face on a daily basis. By spending quality time with people who have learning disabilities, it provides us with ability to gain empathy, understanding and empowerment to scrutinise construction design and to mitigate where practicable, the individual’s needs.
We arranged a trial workshop with 18 people who had varying learning disabilities and invited a couple of contractors, McGee and Cadent Gas, as guests.
The day involved supplying a presentation to the group which showed a variety of scenarios people may face during construction e.g. traffic management and signage, diversion routes, noise, dust, ramps etc. We then had a group discussion on personal thoughts and experiences followed by a site visit to the TfL Old Street project. We observed how the group experienced the site layout, if they were able to understand the signage and how the works made them feel e.g. were they anxious or felt unsafe.
We returned to the office to have tea and biscuits and a quick overview on the day’s activities. We are now planning another session for mid-2020 and will invite other constructors to help increase awareness. The learning gained from these exercises will be included in a ‘disability guidance document for constructors’, which is currently being drafted.