Bus rapid transit identity meets universal design

Bitterman, Alex, and Daniel Baldwin Hess. “Bus Rapid Transit Identity Meets Universal Design.” Disability & Society, vol. 23, no. 5, 2008, pp. 445–459., doi:10.1080/09687590802177015.

Alex Bitterman, works in the School of Design at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York and Daniel Baldwin Hess works in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at State University of New York in Buffalo, New York.

This article discusses how Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) can utilize the principles of Universal Design to be more accessible. As the need for these services continues to grow with population growth in urban areas, “information design components and various graphic components and collateral products that together constitute the basis of a BRT identity system must not only be barrier free but accessible to all users regardless of age, physical ability or cognitive ability” (Bitterman). BRT is able to provide many more advantages than normal bus service, majorly featuring level or zero-step passenger boarding that will meet or exceed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recommendations. Because there is so little information given to the public on these resources, the “perception-making components are as integral to the future success of BRT systems as are the physical components” so that people are even aware that these improved services exist. If there is no community awareness through successful design campaigns, there will be less funding directed toward these services that are meant to benefit everyone. Bitterman and Hess note, “For designers, planners and evaluators of the
hypothetical BRT system the ADAAG may serve as an objective checklist for components
of a BRT and a BRT identity system, and while the ADA mandates are a step in the right
direction toward inclusive usability, designers, planners and evaluators must recognize
these as minimum thresholds which result in a minimal degree of accessibility and which
do not necessarily accommodate an ability-diverse public” (Bitterman). If designers continue to use the minimum standards as a checklist, they are continuing to ignore the voices of the communities that actually need improvements on these services and are effectively making their design worse. Bitterman and Hess also touch on the way that universal design shifts the responsibility of functionality from the user to the designer, contradictory to how many design practices and mindsets run.

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