Pupils from three Birmingham schools and colleges have presented their ideas for how the design of HS2’s stations and trains can meet the needs of passengers with a disability.
Pupils from Braidwood school for the Deaf in Hodge Hill, Heart of Birmingham College in Washwood Heath, and Queensbury School in Erdington were invited to take part in a virtual work experience programme with HS2. The partnership forms part of HS2’s commitment to provide inclusive career development opportunities for Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) pupils and support them to achieve positive career outcomes.
According to NHS data, the proportion of adults in the UK with a learning disability who are in employment is 5.6%, but in Birmingham it is just 1.4%. Working closely with SEND schools in the region, HS2’s Skills, Employment and Education team hope to improve on these alarming statistics by creating pathways into learning and employment on Britain’s new railway.
“It’s vital that HS2 leaves a lasting skills legacy, and that local people benefit from the thousands of training and employment opportunities HS2 is creating,” said Richard Winter, Education Manager at HS2 Ltd. “Through our work as a Cornerstone Employer for the Careers and Enterprise Company in Birmingham, we’re striving to ensure that young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities are at the forefront of the opportunities we are creating and feel empowered to recognise the valuable role that they can play in the delivery of this once in a lifetime project.”
The work experience programme was delivered with the support of 20 HS2 staff, which included employees with a registered disability. This provided the opportunity for staff to share their personal experiences and openly discuss students’ concerns about potential barriers into employment.
As part of the programme, students were assigned a bespoke project which encouraged them to work as a team to develop innovations which could make HS2’s stations and trains more accessible to people with a disability. On completion, the team delivered their presentation to HS2’s Innovation and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion teams for review.
Multiple voices lead to new ideas, new services, and new products, and encourage out-of-the-box thinking, said Andrew Pestana, HS2’s Innovation Strategy Manager, “and that’s exactly what this work experience programme showed. The students’ ideas really highlighted the barriers they can face when using public transport, and it’s vital that we listen and learn from their feedback to ensure that Britain’s new railway reflects the needs of everyone it will serve.
“Simple ideas, like changing seat configurations for signers, and ensuring that all staff carry a notebook and pen really can make a huge difference for passengers with a hearing impairment, and we’ll certainly be taking those ideas on board.”