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Paving the way for more accessible roadworks


The University of East Anglia (UEA) is working with highway authorities, utilities and their contractors to help them ensure that roadworks remain accessible for people with disabilities.

Interviews carried out by Abi Newson, an occupational therapy student, highlighted the frustrations of wheelchair users, who often face inaccessible or dangerous routes around roadworks. The Highways Authorities and Utilities Committee (HAUC) has invited the university to work with them to better understand these challenges and how they can be avoided.

HAUC brings highway authorities, utilities and government together with the aim of working safely and smartly to reduce the impact of street and road works on members of the public throughout the UK.

Roadworks will be set up at the annual London and East Anglia HAUC roadshow (24 May, Allianz Park, London) and contractors will be invited to navigate them on wheelchairs to demonstrate difficulties facing wheelchair users.

The display, sponsored by Kier, A-Plant Lux and Anglian Water, will be created by UEA and pose the challenge: “Can pedestrians clearly see where they ought to go in your roadworks? Does this include pedestrians with limited vision or mobility?”

The demonstration will challenge roadworks businesses to consider if their roadworks communicate their company's values and whether they are providing a safe and suitable service to pedestrians with disabilities.

Dr Katherine Deane, senior lecturer in UEA’s School of Health Sciences, will roll around the roadworks educating people. “My research focuses on the best ways to support people with long-term conditions and disabilities,” she said. “I have what I describe as the advantage of a number of long-term conditions myself, and I am a wheelchair user. This has ensured the focus of my work is very practical, and has driven my interest in how to improve the accessibility of built environments.”

Steve Burley from HAUC said: “It is extremely important that, when carrying out streetworks, full consideration is given to people with disabilities and how they can negotiate the works. The demonstration Katherine and Abi are doing at the roadshow will highlight this to people from highway authorities and utilities. I would like to see this as the starting point to raise awareness and carry on the work being done by the UEA to develop further training in this area.”