2012 Games raising bar for embedding accessibility into city

30 August 2012
  • 2012 organisers set new design standards to ensure most accessible Paralympics ever
  • London uses Games as catalyst to step up its accessibility drive

London has used the 2012 Games not only to set new standards in the design of sporting venues to help deliver the best Paralympic Games ever but also as a springboard for transforming the UK capital into one of the most accessible cities on earth the Mayor of London Boris Johnson said today.

Accessibility has been the cornerstone of all planning and delivery of the venues on the Olympic Park with disabled people involved throughout. This has resulted in the Olympic Delivery Authority, through its award winning ‘Inclusive Design Strategy’, setting a new standard for a 1 in 60 gradient across the park to ease access to venues and facilities. Another important legacy goal has been met by ensuring that 10 per cent of the new homes built on the park will be wheelchair accessible.

This accessibility drive has spread far beyond the boundaries of the park with major upgrades being made to the capital’s infrastructure. Since London became host city in 2005, all 8,500 London buses and over 22,000 licensed taxis now carry a ramp and are wheelchair accessible. Although it is the oldest metro network in the world, 66 London Underground stations, around a quarter of the network, are now step-free. This includes key interchange stations at Green Park and King's Cross St Pancras which have benefited from £48 million and £800 million investments respectively. The Docklands Light Railway network is fully accessible and the London Overground network is now benefitting from a brand new fleet of fully accessible trains. All TfL services are also equipped with accessible features such as video and audio information, hearing induction loops and tactile surfaces.

Great strides have also been made across the capital’s public realm including a £4m revamp of London's landmark South Bank, one of the capital's most visited destinations. This is on top of a number of major accessibility improvements to Leicester Square and Oxford Circus and the Mayor is committed to delivering the highest standards of accessibility and inclusion for all development he has influence over. Work on the South Bank, funded by the Mayor along with Southwark and Lambeth councils, has seen almost four kilometres of this historic and hugely popular part of the capital carefully adjusted to make it fully accessible to disabled visitors and Londoners. Stretching from Westminster to Tower Bridge, improvements to this historic and sensitive part of London included the painstaking re-laying of ancient cobble stones by hand as well as new ramps, wider footpaths, lower curbs and a lift installed in Grade 1 listed Tower Bridge. Mirroring work done in Greece to make the Acropolis more accessible before the 2004 Games and in Beijing in 2008 where lifts were installed on sections of the Great Wall of China, this major investment will leave a lasting legacy.

London 2012 is also leaving a great sporting legacy. Whilst elite Paralympic sport funding has increased by over a third since the Beijing Games to nearly £50 million, disability sport in London has received an £800,000 boost over the past three years through the Mayor’s multimillion Sports Legacy Fund.

The master planning for London's hosting of the most accessible Games ever were today detailed to an audience of international visitors, planners, architects, developers and access planners at a conference hosted by the Mayor at London House with the aim to use Games-time to encourage their uptake even more widely.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: "In 1948 Britain gave the world the liberating force of the Paralympic Games and now in 2012, we want to harness once again the transformational power of this inspiring event.

"The Paralympic Games has already provided the impetus to make accessibility improvements, which are set to leave a superb legacy to the fabric of this city including in transport, sport, housing and the public realm.

"As a consequence of this work, we have amassed a wealth of skills and learning to help London raise the bar higher still once the sporting spectacle has left town."

The Chief Executive of the International Paralympic Committee, Xavier Gonzalez, said: "The city of London from the word go has aimed to make London 2012 a truly inclusive and accessible Games.

"I hope one of the legacies of these Games is that the planning and development put into increasing accessibility for these Games is continued post London 2012 not just in this great city but across the UK."

The warmth of London’s welcome will also be a major factor in the success of the 2012 Games and of how the capital will be remembered - it is estimated that between 8-10 per cent of total London 2012 visitors will have mobility needs, which has led City Hall to develop a range of projects to bring about improvements.

Disabled people travelling in London during, and after, Games-time can take advantage of improved online resources to help them plan their time. A series of short ‘how to’ films have been created to help disabled people unfamiliar with London’s public transport system use TfL’s ticketing and journey planning systems, buses, the Tube, DLR and taxis. The films, one of which is narrated by Paralympic legend and TfL board member, Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE, are available here: www.tfl.gov.uk/mobility

To provide up to date and timely information, the Mayor's 'Inclusive London' website and app (www.inclusivelondon.com) has been developed to feature more than 35,000 businesses with information about accessibility features. This includes hotels, restaurants, pubs, shops, museums and tourist attractions. The resources are already proving a success, receiving nearly 12 million hits since being launched in March 2011.

The Mayor has also developed training for hospitality businesses via 'Destination London' an online course to help managers and frontline staff welcome disabled people and to be more confident providing a first rate customer service.

 

Notes to editors

Freesport - The Mayor is calling on Londoners to try their hand at a sport they may not have tried before for free as part of his Freesport programme, which is aimed at boosting interest and participation in sport before, during and after the Games. Around 130 locations across the capital will be open to the public for the initiative. Each year Freesport gives around 250 of the capital's sports clubs grants of up to £1500 to allow them to open their doors and offer six hours of free coaching 'taster' sessions to Londoners of all ages. Over 15,000 Londoners receive free sustained coaching in a range of sports - more details can be found at www.molpresents.com/freesport

The groundwork for staging the most accessible Olympic and Paralympic Games ever was laid down in the Mayor's London Plan (the city's spatial and planning strategy), which is now setting exemplar standards of accessible and inclusive for other new developments. This includes pioneering standards for housing which must meet 'Lifetime home' guidelines with 10 per cent of properties made wheel chair accessible. These standards and are already being used by the London Legacy Development Corporation to advise developers of the new housing being planned in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and will continue to be promoted in all new residential development.

Visitors to London during the Games have also been assisted and advised by tens of thousands of volunteers including the Mayor's 8,000 Team London Ambassadors.