Highways England is introducing new resources to make it easier for disabled people to use England’s motorways and major A roads.
Nearly one in four people report they have a disability and disabled drivers represent five per cent of the driving population.
The company announced the new services yesterday, International Day of Sign Languages, with one service which will help Deaf people communicate with the organisation using British Sign Language, the other seeing the introduction of access guides to help explain the facilities offered at motorway service areas.
Highways England customer service director, Melanie Clarke, said: “We always encourage everyone to plan their journeys before setting off and appreciate that for some people this isn’t as easy as for others.
“That’s why we’re launching new services, to break down barriers and help people reliably plan and feel confident about their journeys.
“We’ll continue our work to improve facilities in collaboration with the expertise of the Roads for All Forum members.”
Highways England established the Roads for All Forum in 2018 bringing together a wide range of organisations that represent, or provide services to, disabled road users.
Working together, the forum ensures that accessibility and inclusivity shapes England’s roads, both now and in the future.
Guy Dangerfield, head of strategy at the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “We know that driving gives disabled road users vital independence, but the lack of relevant information in suitable formats can make planning a journey very difficult.
“Our research showed the barriers that disabled people can face. It is good to see Transport Focus recommendations being taken onboard to make it easier for all road users to plan journeys and get assistance when they need it.”
Over 100 service areas on England’s motorway network will be surveyed to determine the accessibility of key areas including parking, toilets, petrol stations, shops and restaurants.
The first survey took place at Watford Gap on 5 August, with all 113 Access Guides due to launch in early 2021.
Virtual Access Guides will also be created. This new type of guide, which uses 360-degree imagery, will enable people to travel the route to key facilities, like accessible toilets and changing places, so they can find out exactly what to expect when they arrive.