Ford Launches Initiative To Make Cars More Disability Friendly

Ford Motor Company is launching a new initiative called 'Mobility 4 All' that is working towards developing Ford cars that are more inclusive for people with physical disabilities.

Ford vehicle engineering specialist Dr. Andrew Paton is leading a diverse team of staff with varying disabilities from different departments across Ford of Europe to form an action group that will assess vehicle design with a view to making Ford vehicles the brand of choice for customers with mobility issues.

Dr. Andrew Paton was speaking during the Ford conference 'Not Just Talk' which was held at Ford's new Centre for Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence (CEME) in Dagenham and which marked the end of the European Year for People with Disabilities. "Our major concerns are with getting in and out of the vehicle and stowage space. For example, larger door apertures and greater opening angles can help those people who have to transfer themselves from a wheelchair to the car seat. Similarly, a lower lip level and larger boot capacity make stowing wheelchairs easier.

"Mobility 4 All aims to create the best possible base Ford vehicles for mobility needs. Of course, we have already come a long way as there are lots of features that are already available, including audible parking aids, automatic transmission, electric windows and power steering. These improvements actually make life easier for all of us, whatever our individual degree of mobility. In fact our motto is 'inclusive design is more than just designing for me; it is designing with consideration for all.'"

The conference was attended by members of the EFD (Employers Forum on Disability), including Ford managers. EFD is an employers' organisation that focuses on the issue of disability in the workplace, and is funded and managed by employers. The intention was to learn more about the ways in which Ford will be acting and 'not just talking', firstly when creating vehicles that are inclusive of all disabilities, and secondly when ensuring that staff receive the best possible help with equipment adaptations in the workplace as well.

MAGIC (Mobility and General Information Centre), Ford's free telephone information service on driving with a disability, (0800 240241), also receives feedback from disabled Ford customers about vehicle design that is then fed back to Dr. Andrew Paton, and the Mobility 4 All team. They then use this information when developing their recommendations for vehicle design.

Nick Caton, vice president of human resources, Ford of Europe, also attended the recently held conference and found it very enlightening. "Ford has come far, and I am proud of the work we have done. But the key point is that Ford is continuing to strive for improvement. It is pleasing to see that we are 'not just talking' about disability issues; we are putting our words into action and by launching Mobility 4 All, we are showing that we are committed to creating the best inclusive product that we can by drawing on some fantastic resources - our people and customers."

Published 20 December 2003 Melanie Carter
 

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