Motability has partnered with Designability, a charity which creates products to enable disabled people to live with greater independence, to help support our latest project to make the electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in the UK accessible for people living with disabilities.
Over the past year, Motability has conducted extensive research to improve understanding about the challenges disabled people face when using private and public transport, in order to ensure their voices help to inform the charity’s work. Lack of accessibility across the UK’s EV charging infrastructure has been highlighted as a key problem area and with the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles due to end in 2030, Motability is focussing on charge point accessibility to ensure disabled people are not left behind.
With one in five people in the UK living with a disability, Motability’s research with Ricardo* estimates that there will be 2.7 million disabled drivers or passengers by 2035, with 1.35 million expected to be partially or wholly reliant on public charging infrastructure, meaning they will need to charge their vehicle away from home. An additional report, sponsored by Motability, from the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (RiDC), field tested the experiences of disabled drivers with EVs, identifying a range of specific challenges with design features, such as high kerbs, inadequate space for wheelchair users around the charge point and heavy cables**.
In the race to ensure the UK is inclusive by 2030, Motability has awarded grant funding to Designability, and the two charities are working together to further understand the challenges disabled people face and explore possible solutions to increase the accessibility of EV charging infrastructure. The experience, shared knowledge and expertise of Designability’s researchers, product designers and engineers will be invaluable in achieving the project’s aims – to provide an understanding for industry and Government of what accessibility means and what best practice could look like for EV charge points.
Catherine Marris, Innovation Lead at Motability, says: “Our research has found that current EV charging points have not been designed with the needs of people living with disabilities in mind and it’s imperative that they’re included in this future shift. Given the high cost of retrofitting major infrastructure, there is a robust commercial and social case for building in accessibility now to ensure that the transition is inclusive for everyone.
“We have joined forces with Designability as their objectives align closely to our own and they’re experts in the field of user centred design and product creation to increase independence for disabled people. As a world leading project, we are determined to work towards ensuring that future charging infrastructure is inclusive and accessible for anyone living with disabilities.
“One of our charity’s key priorities is to work with industry and Government to amplify the voices of disabled people in the transport system and innovate solutions to charge point accessibility challenges. If you are interested in collaborating with us, please get in touch.”
Catharine Brown, Chief Executive at Designability, adds: “This is an exciting new project for Designability. Our expertise in working with disabled people makes us perfectly placed to find solutions to these every day challenges – which will only increase as more people want to drive electric cars. It is shocking that the needs of disabled people have not been taken into account as this new technology becomes mainstream, and we are delighted to extend our relationship with Motability to create cutting edge design solutions.
“For over 50 years we have listened to disabled people describe their challenges and created innovative products which help them to live the life they choose. This project will enable us to have impact on the lives of millions of disabled drivers for many years to come.”
The scoping and discovery phase of the project began in January this year, with the aim of understanding where design solutions could be focussed to best improve accessibility, and to identify what issues need to be explored further with disabled people to help inform best practice for accessible design in this area.
Motability and Designability will continue working closely to engage with disabled people to identify needs, define design requirements and test concepts, demonstrating what best practice in EV charging accessibility looks like.
*Motability’s research with Ricardo Energy and Environment is available on request by visiting the Motability website where you can also find out more about the charity’s Research and Innovation work.