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UK Power Networks ramps up technology to help wheelchair users

Roadworks can mean roadblocks for many disabled people and other pedestrians with limited mobility - because traditional kerb ramps present an insurmountable barrier.

From Press releases - 27 April 2018 12:00 AM

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Now electricity firm UK Power Networks is working with manufacturer Melba Swintex and academic Dr Katherine Deane of the University of East Anglia, to launch a brand new ramp designed specifically with disabled people in mind.

The new ramp can be used by anyone but it has features that make it more accessible and easier for wheelchair users and visually impaired people to navigate.

The current design for kerbside ramps can be:
• Too steep an incline for wheelchairs to negotiate
• Too narrow for guide dogs to safely escort visually impaired people
• Traditional ramps must be approached straight on because of the high sides needed to guide visually impaired people – an issue when there is insufficient clearance for the wheelchair to approach the ramp

UK Power Networks and Melba Swintex have developed a prototype ramp that will be trialled across 100 locations in London this year. The project is funded by a £115,000 grant from Transport for London’s Lane Rental Funding scheme, which is contributed to by companies who undertake roadworks on the TfL Network.

Dr Deane, a senior lecturer in the University of East Anglia’s School of Nursing Studies, and is herself a wheelchair user, has undertaken extensive research on disabled peoples’ mobility said: “Something as innocuous as a set of roadworks can present an impossible barrier to many vulnerable people. Every wheelchair user has a horror story about them.

“When I saw the initial designs for the ramp I knew straight away that a couple of small changes could make all the difference to road users. To their credit, the developers actually listened and worked with myself, other wheelchair users and visually impaired people to produce a ramp that is safer and easier to negotiate.”

The key changes in the new ramp are:
• A shallower incline to make it more accessible for wheelchairs
• It leans against the kerb rather than bridges over it, so it does not buckle in the middle
• It can be approached from the sides and not just head on

If the trial is successful, the new ramp could be available by the end of 2018.

Richard Boissieux, Streetworks Manager at UK Power Networks, said: “Disabled customers told us they sometimes encountered problems with our streetworks, and we wanted to find a solution. The current products on the market didn’t fit the bill and so we’ve worked with Melba Swintex and Dr Deane to design a brand new product that did the job better.

“If this year’s trials are a success then we could see this new ramp rolled out across the country. If that can make the lives of some of our most vulnerable people just a little bit easier then our efforts will have been worthwhile.”