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The purpose of transport engineering is to connect people to the activities that make life worthwhile. We also work on transport networks for the efficient movement of goods, but the people focus is what attracts many from other fields of engineering that are more, shall we say, “concrete”. And it’s important that all people can have their voices heard, and their needs met.
Bridget Doran from MRCagney’s Hamilton office has worked with Aotearoa’s disability communities for over a decade. Her work began with a conversation with local disability advocate, Gerri Pomeroy. They met on the streets of Hamilton, reviewing footpaths and road crossings for a local council pedestrian study. Gerri and Bridget quickly found a mutual interest in getting beyond surface issues to the heart of the problem: what more could the transport sector do to recognise these challenges, beyond response to one-off complaints?
Gerri introduced Bridget to many other disability advocates, and the mahi grew. In 2016, Bridget was invited to speak at a Roundtable meeting of the International Transport Forum in Paris, about the economic value of accessibility improvements for disabled people. In recent years MRCagney has grown its experience and expertise in the field of inclusive access. They now work on a wide range of projects, from national-level policy on equity and inclusion, to researching disabled people’s experiences of transport, and including local street audits of infrastructure to identify barriers that make disabled people’s access difficult, or impossible.
An important part of inclusive access is recognition that the community of professionals does not have the same lived experience of disability as the community we design for. In short, there aren’t many disabled people working as transport planners or engineers. There are a lot of systemic reasons for that, but Bridget is working on solutions. As part of her leadership role in the Engineering New Zealand Transportation Group, Bridget helped to establish an annual Summer internship for a disabled person interested in a career in transport.
The internship has been hugely successful, with interns impressing their colleagues and highlighting gaps between policy goals, and infrastructure quality. The engineering sector is recognising the opportunity that a more diverse workforce can bring, so recently Bridget was invited to write about the internship for EG magazine. Read a copy of Bridget’s article here for more.