Weaving Usability and Cultures


UI Garden generally concerns itself with issues of inclusivity in the design of online information. As such it is a valuable resource. Here however they have forayed into the area of universal design in vehicles in a discussion that lends itself to note in the Rolling Rains Report on Inclusive Travel.

UI Garden has reprinted the 1997 article, A Car for All - or Mobility for All? Part I, by Universal Design expert Roger Coleman and Dale Harrow iin both English and Chinese.

A lecture given at the ‘Car Design for All’ Conference by: Roger Coleman, DesignAge, and Dale Harrow, Transportation Design. Royal College of Art, London SW7 2EU Institute of Mechanical Engineers – London 3/12/97 © IMechE & the authors Abstract

Population ageing and environmental concern are two important factors that will effect the design of vehicles in the future. In response to the potential conflict between them, the authors propose a shift in focus from individual vehicles to transport services, from ‘A Car for All’ to ‘Mobility for All’, and offer strategies, scenarios and case studies of how this might be achieved. New service and vehicle typologies are introduced and discussed, and an area of future research and development is identified.

Keywords-Transportation, Mobility, Service Design, Vehicle Design, Ageing, Disability.


The world is growing older. Europe, Japan, North America and other developed countries demonstrate this population ageing in its most extreme form, and there is compelling evidence of the same process taking place in less developed areas. This is a radical and unprecedented change in the age structure of modern societies that we are only beginning to come to terms with. It will change our perception of what disability is and who is disabled. Peter Laslett of Trinity College Cambridge has set out the background to this in his book ‘A Fresh Map of Life: the Emergence of the Third Age’. He identifies this ‘secular shift in ageing’ as beginning in the UK some 150 years ago, and suggests that within 50 years it will be substantially complete with half the adult population aged 50 or over, and with considerable increases in the number of people aged 65+ and in particular those aged 80+.

Population ageing is closely associated with industrial development (although that is not the only driving factor) and has been accompanied by the development of the motor car. Driving is almost universal in the UK, as is car ownership, and increasingly seen as a necessity and a basic right. The average age of a new car buyer is now about 45 and, with a large growth in the 65+ population, accessibility will be an increasingly important factor in purchasing decisions of which vehicle manufacturers should take note. Social realities are also changing. We no longer live in large family units, many older people live alone and public transport is not readily available in country areas. People therefore increasingly depend on cars for essential and social journeys. The growth in the number of older people brings with it a change in the nature and prevalence of impairments, especially reduced mobility (c. ten times as common in Europe as wheelchair usage), which make people even more dependent. At the same time there are more people with reduced vision or hearing, who find driving increasingly difficult, and who present a potential danger on the roads.

Perhaps the most important desire of older people is to retain their independence for as long as possible, and independence and car ownership are closely linked. Mobility is a key factor in life-quality, in the sense of being able to make the many different types of journey that are necessary for older people. Meeting friends and visiting relations, shopping, recreational and educational activities, are all essential parts of an active life, and visits to doctors and hospital are likely to increase with age.

So, the number of older drivers is likely to rise, with vehicle accessibility just one of a whole range of needs. But, with the likelihood of measures to reduce the environmental impact of traffic and the possibility of regular driving tests for safety reasons, there is a potential mismatch between the mobility needs of an ageing population and environmental, amenity and safety considerations. This could mean large numbers of older people being denied the use of their own cars. The knock-on effect would be a rise in dependency, particularly in rural areas, and therefore in consequential costs to the state, and the price of health-care insurance. From the perspective of car design alone this seems an intractable problem, and is therefore more likely to be ignored than addressed. However, if we take a step back from the car and think instead about people’s mobility needs and how to satisfy them the problem becomes more manageable.



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