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Motability enters new partnership to make EV chargers more accessible

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Motability wants to ensure that new electric vehicle charging infrastructure is designed to be accessible to those with disabilities, so it’s partnering with Designability to make that a reality. 

Throughout the last year, Motability has been researching what challenges disabled people face when using private and public transport, with the charity especially looking at EV charging infrastructure. It found that there’s currently a severe lack of accessibility across the UK’s charging network, and it’s one that Motability wants to address. 

With the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles set to be banned in 2030, Motability is keen for disabled people to not be left behind in the electric vehicle revolution. It notes that with 2.7 million disabled drivers or passengers by 2035, there will likely be at least 1.35 million people partially or wholly reliant on public charging infrastructure. Those people need to be able to use those chargers without issue. 

A report, sponsored by Motability, from the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (RiDC), field tested the experiences of disabled drivers with EVs, with it identifying a range of specific challenges with design features, such as high kerbs, inadequate space for wheelchair users around the charge point and heavy cables.

In the race to ensure the UK is inclusive by 2030, Motability has awarded grant funding to Designability, and the two charities are working together to further understand the challenges disabled people face and explore possible solutions to increase the accessibility of EV charging infrastructure. The experience, shared knowledge and expertise of Designability’s researchers, product designers and engineers will be invaluable in achieving the project’s aims – to provide an understanding for industry and Government of what accessibility means and what best practice could look like for EV charge points.

Catherine Marris, Innovation Lead at Motability, commented, “Our research has found that current EV charging points have not been designed with the needs of people living with disabilities in mind and it’s imperative that they’re included in this future shift. Given the high cost of retrofitting major infrastructure, there is a robust commercial and social case for building in accessibility now to ensure that the transition is inclusive for everyone.

“We have joined forces with Designability as their objectives align closely to our own and they’re experts in the field of user centred design and product creation to increase independence for disabled people. As a world leading project, we are determined to work towards ensuring that future charging infrastructure is inclusive and accessible for anyone living with disabilities.

“One of our charity’s key priorities is to work with industry and Government to amplify the voices of disabled people in the transport system and innovate solutions to charge point accessibility challenges. If you are interested in collaborating with us, please get in touch.”

Catharine Brown, Chief Executive at Designability, added, “This is an exciting new project for Designability. Our expertise in working with disabled people makes us perfectly placed to find solutions to these every day challenges – which will only increase as more people want to drive electric cars. It is shocking that the needs of disabled people have not been taken into account as this new technology becomes mainstream, and we are delighted to extend our relationship with Motability to create cutting edge design solutions.

“For over 50 years we have listened to disabled people describe their challenges and created innovative products which help them to live the life they choose. This project will enable us to have an impact on the lives of millions of disabled drivers for many years to come.”

The scoping and discovery phase of the project began in January 2021, with the aim of understanding where design solutions could be focused to best improve accessibility, and to identify what issues need to be explored further with disabled people to help inform best practice for accessible design in this area.

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