Barriers to Accessibility on a Tram Network: A Systemic Perspective

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Shane Donnellan, Heriot-Watt University


A body of literature exists highlighting the barriers to inclusion which can exist within common systems. The operators of the public transport networks within Edinburgh are explicit in their intention to incorporate inclusive design into their service. However this is in relation to passengers who are registered as disabled, and does not account for those with mobility issues who may not choose to be categorised as disabled. Thus, while over 50% of the population will experience mobility issues at some point (transient or permanent), the barriers to accessibility which they may experience are not considered. The Luhmannism approach argues that inclusion and exclusion can only be adequately be understood through applying Systems Thinking. A dearth of systems thinking research in relation to accessibility exists however.

In exploring this issue, I will be completing a range of Cognitive Task Analysis methods to describe the tram network, the functions it serves and the connections between its components as a complex system. A number of semi-structured interviews will be completed with individuals who experience mobility issues. The views and experiences of participants with physical disabilities, mobility issues caused by injury and those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis will be explored to understand the barriers to access. Results will be discussed in light of current guidelines for applying systems thinking into socio-technical systems and directions for intervention and future research identified.

Date & time

7-8 June 2016

NCTL Learning and Conference Centre, Nottingham

What is a Complex System?

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