The groundbreaking project will see the SWR joined forces with The Rose Road Association in a bid to create more accessible rail travel for young people with disabilities.
The charity provides direct care services for more than 300 children and young adults with severe physical disabilities, learning disabilities and/or autism and includes services such as respite breaks, community outreach, holiday activities and advice.
In 2020 SWR began the collaboration with Rose Road via their Customer and Community Improvement Fund to create ‘All Aboard’, a 2-year project with funding of £120,000 to provide for the increasing demand for travel opportunities for young people with severe or multiple disabilities.
As the Covid pandemic and successive lockdowns impacted the project, Rose Road had to reconsider how it could move forward and following consultation with SWR new approaches were discovered alongside resources to support the progress of the project during the pandemic making sure that its overall aims were still met.
An innovative idea by Rose Road saw part of the SWR funding used to research local destination accessibility, working with one of Rose Road’s corporate partners’ Ordnance Survey (OS) in a pro-bono capacity to create a unique mapping project. The ingenious venture sees OS map detailed accessible routes both to and from stations with the knowledge gained from the exercise set to benefit travellers as OS may be able to use the additional elements of accessibility in their mapping.
Further practical resources developed by Rose Road for their service users have seen a board game that highlights issues that disabled rail users face, the game is also available in an online version that families can enjoy at home. A sensory story sack “Going on a Train Trip” has also been created and uses pictures, sounds and sensory experiences to engage Rose Road service users with more profound disabilities.
Now that restrictions have lifted and as people get back to rail travel, Rose Road have also been able to get back to their original aims to bring experience and enrichment for the young people who use their services aiming to break down barriers they and their families face and building confidence in travelling by train to access local destinations. The plans will see the publication of new, accessible rail guides for many local stations in the Southampton and Hampshire area. The plans will also see parties of disabled young people taken out on day trips on the railway, the first of which took place recently when a group of young people, families and carers visited the Signalbox Museum travelling by train from Southampton to Romsey.
Steve Swift, Rose Road’s CEO said: “Rose Road are very grateful to SWR for their support – as well as their patience and willingness to be flexible when we had to adapt our project to allow us to make progress during the pandemic. I really don’t think we could have achieved what we have thus far without that support. We look forward to working with them in the future to help make rail travel more accessible to even more young people with disabilities”.
Veronika Krcalova, SWR’s Customer and Communities Improvement Fund Manager, added: “We are always looking for new and innovative ways to support the communities that our network serves. Rose Road have worked very hard over the last two years to continue to deliver the All Aboard project, despite being faced with the myriad of challenges posed by the pandemic. Our partnership is a great opportunity to engage with young people with severe disabilities and show them how the railway can be more accessible to them.”