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Disability Initiatives at HS2

Accessibility at HS2

Making our facilities accessible for everyone 

HS2 works in order to ensure that their buildings are fully accessible. In 2016, Paul Mouzer, an access consultant, who was born deaf and is visually impaired, helped us to review our access arrangements as he knows only too well the work that needs to be done to in order to ensure a safe environment for colleagues and visitors with disabilities.

We looked at all aspects of the HS2 buildings including the entrances, exits, reception areas, emergency exits, corridors, lift lobbies and facilities in order to create a comprehensive review of the accessibility of the building. In particular, our iPad-based Health and Safety video, Safe at Heart, was highlighted as being an innovative and highly accessible disability practise. The subtitled version of the video and the easy read transcript that was readily available was also recognised. 

However, after receiving the access reviews HS2 still has plenty of work to do. We have already installed hearing loops in all of HS2 Ltd’s main reception desks and we are looking at how we can support visual fire alarms. This has not been feasible in all of HS2s’ buildings as they won’t be occupied by HS2 in the future and the landlords decide to what degree the buildings meet the expectations that are outlined in the Equality Act.

Equality Diversity and Inclusion. Facilities and Finance work together in order to prioritise the recommendation of the access reviews. This has been a great example of how working together can make the workplace environment one that attracts and retains a variety of individuals.   

Making our public consultations accessible to all

It is important to HS2 that when we hold a constitution with the public, we need to make sure that everyone is able to take part in the conversations that we are having, as these affect the public.

The Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) team worked with Tom Sanders from the HS2 consultation to complete the equality analysis process for public consultations. Tom found that at every consultation, we need to think about how it can be inclusive to the public including:

  • The type of documents we are using;
  • How everyone has access to the documents
  • Whether the venues used for consultation information events meet accessibility guidelines

The Consultation team have created a simple process to make sure that they conduct an equality analysis ahead of every consultation in order to ensure that they are being accessible to the public. This process includes a template document that helps to identify any impacts or potential impacts that that may be associated with the delivery of a consultation. The impacts can be felt by people according to age, type of disability, religious belief and sex, to name a few.

In November 2016, the team conducted an equality analysis for three Phase 2a consultations, it was found that someone with a disability may be prevented from joining in with the consultation. When this was discovered, the team worked on how they could prevent this from happening in the future, including:

  • making consultation materials available (upon request) in alternative formats, with a recent industry first of a braille map
  • working with local authorities to share consultation information with specific charitable organisations and local disability groups and
  • completing health, safety and accessibility checks on information event venues.

Tom said: “We do this to make sure our consultations take into account everyone including those in protected groups, and we need to do as much as we can to make sure everyone on a proposed route is aware of our consultations”.

The process for developing Tactile or Braille maps is now available from the EDI Interchange resource in the “Guidance and Tools” section. 

Making our railways accessible for everyone 

HS2 strongly believes that everyone should be able to board our trains with ease. We’re building the largest infrastructure in Europe and we’ve just released the tender to bid on the designs of some of the most future thinking rolling stocks of the next generation; therefore, accessibility is key.

In order to ensure that all of our customers are able to enjoy independent, safe and dignified travel we have been researching our platform train interfaces (the ‘PTI’, i.e. the ‘threshold’ you need to cross when you go from the platform onto the train) in order to gain a better understanding of how we can improve this experience for customers. Boarding and disembarking is the greatest barrier that disabled individuals face when travelling by train, we want to reduce this obstacle as much as possible.

What research are we carrying out?

We set up a full-scale test rig with independent features that we could move around including a platform, doorway and passage area of a train. We completed over a 1000 tests events and experiences with the following influential groups;

  • Research Institute for Consumer Affairs (Rica) – who conduct consumer research for older and disabled people,
  • Network Rail’s Built Environment Access Panel (BEAP) – who are a diverse group with a wide range of disabilities and considerable knowledge of the transport sector,
  • Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), Passenger Focus Accessibility Forum and the HS2 Passenger Panel.

In addition to the accessibility issues for those with wheeled mobility aids, the gap between the train and platform can also be problematic for those using pushchairs. The height and gap of the step creates different problems for every individual, some of the main groups that can face issues when using the train are powered wheelchair and scooter users, manual wheelchair users, people with walking mobility difficulties and people with visual impairments, including assistance dogs.

It is challenging to find a solution that suits everyone, however we believe that by making sure that the platform and the floor of the train are at the same level then this will be the best solution. In addition to this, we have also found a step-gap combination that is both technically feasible and meets the widest range of user needs. We are continuously improving our service for users, so that we can remain confident that we will set a new standard for inclusive travel by rail.

Making our oppourtunities avaliable to all 

It is important that the opportunities that HS2 has available are open for everyone to get involved in as we are the biggest public investment in infrastructure that there has been in a generation. HS2 creates 25,000 jobs in construction, apprenticeships and in the project as a whole therefore we need to be able to give everyone who is interested in our roles the chance.

In 2016, we started a relaunch of our careers site in order to make sure that everyone can find out about, access and apply for our opportunities. HS2 Ltd aims to be the industry leader for equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). We aim to achieve this by changing the way that we attracted talent, in order for our workforce to reflect the true diversity that exists in the UK.

In the past, our Careers website has been fairly basis and it wasn’t designed with the needs of disabled people in mind. The site needs to attract candidates that are outside of the profile of the traditional rail demographic. By attracting people that are outside of the rail industry we would have the benefit of bringing more women and BAME (Black, Asian, Minority, and Ethnic) backgrounds; therefore, helping us to reflect the communities that we will be impacting throughout the project.

HS2 worked with two key groups:

Our employment advertising partner TMP, helped us to create a compelling narrative with an employer brand that is attractive to the most diverse range of talents possible within the marketplace. TMP’s narrative focused on aspirational themes of the HS2 project, and then drew in the people angles. This puts us firmly on the radar of potential employees who are outside of the infrastructure industry.

In addition to our work with TMP, we have also worked the Digital Accessibility Centre (DAC), an organisation of digital accessibility experts who have helped us to develop a website that everyone can use to learn about HS2, find our roles and apply for them. There was a need for us to vastly improve the descriptions of the images on our site and our captioned videos in order for people who are using screen readers to be able to play and pause video. We have comprehensively addressed the issues that the DAC raised and we are now pleased to say that our careers site is fully accessible. Our site has now achieved the AA Accessibility Accreditation, and we are in the final stages of the full DAC certification.   

In 2016 HS2 saw a 2% increase of women applicants and in 2017 we are expected to see an increase in the number of disabled applicants, as our site is now more accessible.

HR head Simon Mallender said: "We’ve seen just how many opportunities there are to get it wrong"

"It's so easy for simple omissions, or a lack of focus, to be a huge barrier for such a wide range of the population."

Head of EDI, Mark Lomas said: “I think it is great to see the hard work of the resourcing team come to fruition with our new accessible website. It is a real step forward for HS2 on our journey to be an exemplar of EDI practice.”

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