High Volume Transport

Vital transport research to ensure accessible, affordable and climate friendly transport for all.

Storytelling for real: how voices of vulnerable road users can be heard

The often unheard experiences of women and people with disabilities will be shared with transport planners and service providers in Zambia and Uganda through digital storytelling, one of several different methods explored by the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York for inclusion in a guidance framework for greater inclusivity in transport.

In many low- and middle-income cities (LMICs) in sub-Saharan Africa, inequities exist in the provision of accessible, safe, clean and affordable transport. This is due to many factors, including rapid urbanisation, rising populations, significant economic and technological growth, and increasing rates of motorisation. Mobility options are particularly limited for vulnerable road users such as people with disabilities, women and children – yet they are often the last ones considered in the design or improvement of transport infrastructure and services.

At the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York we have been employing Digital Storytelling (DST) to bring the voices of road users – especially people with disabilities and women – into the development of future transport. This, along with other evidence-based participatory tools which include the voices of disadvantaged groups, will be used as case study material for a guidance framework for inclusive climate resilient transport planning.

DST is the use of multi-media technology to tell stories, and offers a way for gathering first-hand experiences from groups and individuals, and then sharing these experiences with decision makers and policy makers. For people with disabilities and women using transport, DST gives them a previously unavailable means of conveying the issues affecting them and directing their messages to the relevant transport planners and service providers.

DST has become an increasingly popular research tool and we are seeing it as an important and effective way to engage planners and service providers with the challenges faced by people with disabilities and women when using transport. It is also hoped that by opening up an engagement through DST, a longer term process could emerge whereby future planning decisions include people with disabilities and women in their consultations through participation and co-creation of solutions.

Another benefit of DST is that it is a very accessible and affordable form of research in LMICs. Many people in LMICs today have access to digital technology like a mobile phone, so it is an approach that can easily be adopted by disability rights groups and others.

We have used DST in the FCDO HVT programme’s Inclusive Climate-Resilient Transport in Africa project to explore two different areas. Every journey tells a different story and those that have been produced here provide insights into mobility challenges that would have otherwise gone unheard. The storytellers convey their individual accounts directly to the audience rather than by simply responding to questions posed by an interviewer.

For this study, we set out to provide real life narratives about mobility issues through stories from Zambia and Uganda.

In Zambia the study investigated mobility narratives on road safety and climate change. It used a collaborative process where participants and facilitators produced four powerful stories about issues that affected them on their various journeys. Storyboards were used to guide the collection of video footage. For safety reasons, the individuals’ experience was captured using equipment operated by a professional cameraman.

The mobility narratives from Uganda are told from different perspectives concerning boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis). This mode of transport is dangerous, unregulated and lawless and we hear how lives have been changed due to traffic accidents involving boda bodas. Yet they remains a vital part of day-to-day life.

“They’re crazy helpful, but crazy risky for your life,” says Charlotte, a physically disabled lawyer from Kampala, Uganda.

Through their stories, these individuals share their thoughts on potential solutions aimed at transport planners and boda-boda operators.

All the vulnerable road users in these videos express how they are impacted by road traffic and offer solutions to address the issues. The opportunity to voice their concerns through their digital stories fosters hope that they might help drive a change in the mind-sets of the transport planners.

The final stage is to now present these stories to transport planners and service providers through the Guidance Framework to start discussions that will enable the voices of vulnerable road users to be incorporated in future transport planning decisions.

This research was undertaken as part of the Inclusive Climate Resilient Transport Planning in Africa project, funded by the UK Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) High- Volume Transport Applied Research Programme, managed by IMC Worldwide Ltd.

Video production in Zambia by Daniel Mwamba (Zambia Road Safety Trust). Video production in Uganda by Amanda Ngabirano and Yusuf Arby Wasike