• English

Prof. Elmar Fürst

Institute for Transport and Logistics Management, Vienna University of Economics and Business will talk on:

"Accessible Mobility: Why improved accessibility for sight impaired sustains universal functionality"

Short Bio

Dr. Elmar Wilhelm M. Fürst is Associate Professor at the Institute for Transport and Logistics Management, Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU Wien). His research focus lies in sustainable transport and particularly in accessible mobility. He is the author of numerous publications including papers in academic journals and is in charge of several national and international research projects. Being sight impaired himself, Elmar is also the President of the “Hilfsgemeinschaft”, the Austrian Association in Support of the Blind and Visually Impaired, the country’s largest organisation in the field with more than 70 employees and 6.000 members.

Summary of presentation:

Accessibility is often falsely regarded as a “barrier for creativity” hindering designers, planners and architects. This is probably due to a lack of awareness, information and respective knowledge. In an aging society where mobility has more and more become a central factor for the quality of life and a civil right and with technological and social advances in mind, it becomes clear, that the need for taking care about needs and requirements of “persons with reduced mobility” in a broad sense is crucial. These group comprises people with disabilities as well as the elderly, people with heavy luggage, with temporary handicaps, buggies for their children, etc. Thus, accessibility should no longer be restricted to a rather small target group but rather be seen as a chance for improving usability and functionality. Everyone will benefit as the following example may illustrate: If a sight impaired person is better able to read a particular signpost, monitor, display or text, all people with better eyesight will also be able to better read this text.

Therefore, accessibility should always be looked at from this perspective. Accessibility in the sense of universal usability and functionality will – by definition – lead to benefits for all. Taking it seriously into account already in the planning phase of a project, it will lead to better results. As changing the point of view is still an ongoing process, many laws, standards and guidelines lack this focus on universal functionality. Hence, it is highly recommended to consult a variety of persons with reduced mobility and to respect the different needs and requirements.

Research and many practical examples have shown that the marginal costs of considering accessibility on time are much lower than subsequent rebuildings. Sufficient awareness of these facts, however, is the main basis for optimal results.