Policy Connect joins landmark venture on inclusive transport, funded by Motability

The cross-party think tank Policy Connect announces that it will expand its operations to include transport policy, headed by leading accessibility policy expert Clive Gilbert

The think tank currently has five policy teams – education and skills; industry, technology and innovation; assistive and accessible technology; health; and sustainability – and will begin work on inclusive transport in early 2023.  

Policy Connect will work in collaboration with Coventry University, The Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (RiDC), Designability, Connected Places Catapult, and WSP UK to develop and run the UK’s first Evidence Centre for Inclusive Transport, with grant funding from Motability of £20 million over seven years. The centre will work with disabled people, disabled people’s organisations, transport providers and policy makers to both undertake research and develop solutions which aim to make transport accessible for everyone. 

Throughout an open and transparent grant competition process, Motability has worked with a panel of competition advisors, from research, policy, charity, and disability sector backgrounds.  

Policy Connect has a strong track record on accessibility policy across its existing portfolios, including education, with the Arriving at Thriving report, and in technology, with the ATech (Assistive and Accessible Technology) Policy Lab. 

Policy Connect will establish a permanent Policy Commission on Accessible Transport, led by Clive Gilbert as Head of Accessible Transport Policy. An expert in accessibility policy, Clive has recently been recognised in the Shaw Trust Power100 list of most influential disabled people in the UK. He will continue to work on assistive and accessible technology policy, including building on the impact from the Smarter Homes for Independent Living report. The Commission will bring disabled people, transport professionals and other stakeholders together with national, regional and local government to use the insights generated by the centre to put inclusive and accessible mobility at the heart of the national transport policy agenda. 

The Evidence Centre aims to transform the transport sector’s understanding of disabled peoples’ experiences of transport and to take the opportunity of emerging technology advances in transport and low carbon ambitions to improve the accessibility and reliability of transport for disabled people. The centre will convene disabled people and decision makers to drive for systems level change, helping realise Motability’s vision that no disabled person is disadvantaged due to poor access to transport. 

Right now, disabled people make 38% fewer journeys than non-disabled people – a figure that has not changed in the last decade*. This “transport accessibility gap” tells us that there is much more that transport providers need to do to make sure that disabled people can travel across road, rail, and air with ease. Motability are grant funding this Evidence Centre for inclusive transport with the primary aim of closing the transport accessibility gap. 

Clive Gilbert, Senior Research and Policy Manager at Policy Connect, said:

“Policy Connect is delighted to be joining the Evidence Centre. Through our work with parliamentary groups and commissions spanning from manufacturing to health and climate change, we have over 25 years’ experience of creating better public policies that help solve society’s challenges and change lives. This project will build on our expertise in assistive and accessible technology (ATech), where we have helped drive improvements to the lives of disabled people through the APPG for Assistive Technology and the ATech Policy Lab. 

As a disabled person myself, I am all too aware of the barriers that inaccessible transport can create to accessing services such as education and healthcare, getting a job and even making and sustaining friendships. These barriers incur a cost – not only for disabled people but also to the economy and wider society that misses out on their participation.   

Our new policy commission will make sure that disabled people’s views and experiences are heard in the corridors of power at all levels of government.”     

Barry Le Grys, Chief Executive of Motability the charity, said:

“After an extensive competition process, we are pleased to grant fund Coventry University, alongside RiDC, Designability, Connected Places Catapult, Policy Connect and WSP UK to run the UK’s first Evidence Centre for Inclusive Transport. The organisations bring their wealth of experience and expertise in transport design and the experiences of disabled people to help us to create longer-term solutions in travel accessibility. 

We know that being unable to make the journeys they want or need to, has a huge impact on disabled people’s daily lives; from getting a job, to attending medical appointments, to seeing friends and family. While some solutions exist to help make transport accessible, the fact that the accessibility gap hasn’t improved in a decade shows that much more needs to be done. 

The competition process has attracted lots of interest across the transport and disability sectors, which is vitally important for making transport more inclusive. I look forward to seeing the positive changes the Evidence Centre will make by working with disabled people, disabled people’s organisations, transport providers and policy makers to make transport accessible for everyone.”  

Paul Herriotts, Professor of Transport Design in the Centre for Future Transport and Cities at Coventry University, said:

“We are delighted at Coventry University to have been chosen to lead the Evidence Centre. We look forward to starting this exciting project for which we have great passion; it builds upon our strengths at Coventry University of teaching and research in transport design and our track record of applied research delivering real impact. 

We recognise the daily challenges still faced by disabled people in accessing transport in the UK, whilst this is a complex issue, it largely stems from today’s transport simply not being appropriate for the needs of disabled people.  This poor provision of accessible transport leads to many disabled people facing real challenges in a range of key activities including education, employment, healthcare and being socially connected. 

Research is needed to better understand disabled peoples’ lived experiences, needs, and wants in relation to transport. The Evidence Centre will house and deliver future research - with this much-needed new approach: the generous funding from Motability enables us to undertake innovative applied research that puts disabled people at the heart of the process. We will look to disabled people to help guide and inform our activities and to help shape the future of public and private transport in the UK. The Evidence Centre looks to make a real difference and to drive change with the intention of positively transforming the lives of disabled people.” 

The Evidence Centre is expected to launch in early 2023.  

Notes to Editors 

About Policy Connect  

Policy Connect is a cross-party think tank. We specialise in supporting parliamentary groups, forums and commissions, delivering impactful policy research and event programmes and bringing together parliamentarians and government in collaboration with academia, business and civil society to help shape public policy in Westminster and Whitehall, so as to improve people’s lives. 

Our work focusses on five key policy areas which are: Education & Skills; Industry, Technology & Innovation; Sustainability; Health; and Assistive & Accessible Technology. 

We are a social enterprise and are funded by a combination of regular annual membership subscriptions and time-limited sponsorships. We are proud to be a Disability Confident and London Living Wage employer, and a member of Social Enterprise UK. 

About Motability  

Motability is a national charity set up with all party parliamentary support in 1977 and incorporated by 

Royal Charter. Our vision is that no disabled person shall be disadvantaged due to poor access to transportation and our objective is to facilitate the relief and assistance of all disabled people in connection with the provision of personal or other transportation. 

To help us achieve our vision and objective, Motability: 

  • Sets the strategic policies and direction of the Motability Scheme and oversees its performance to ensure it meets the transportation needs of disabled people. 

  • Uses charitable funds to support beneficiaries with the cost of their transportation needs. 

  • Uses charitable funds to support other charities and organisations address the challenges that disabled people face accessing transport right now, while Motability continues its research and innovation work into longer-term solutions to make all transport accessible. 

  • Constantly looks for and generates innovative solutions to meet the evolving transportation needs of disabled people.   

  • Listens to disabled people, amplifying their voices, and publishing research to identify how we can make a positive impact on their transport lives. 

  • Raises awareness of Motability, the Charity, and the Motability Scheme among potential beneficiaries and customers, and the people who advise them. 

About the Evidence Centre 

The Evidence Centre will be run by Coventry University and a consortium of charities and organisations, independent of Motability. Coventry University and collaborators have been chosen following an open and transparent charitable grant competition process. 

About Coventry University  

Coventry University is a global, modern university with a mission of Creating Better Futures. We were founded by entrepreneurs and industrialists in 1843 as the Coventry School of Design and we continue to have strong links with the public and private sector, providing job-ready graduates with the skills and creative thinking to improve their communities.  

With a proud tradition of innovative teaching and learning, Coventry University has world-class campus facilities, the UK’s first standalone 5G network and a digital community of learning. Our students are part of a global network that has 50,000 learners studying Coventry University degrees in more than 40 different countries and collaborations with 150 higher education providers worldwide.   

We have greatly increased our research capacity and capability with a focus on impactful research, delivered for and with collaborators to address real-world challenges and support business and communities to grow. The depth and breadth of rapidly growing research portfolio was validated by the latest UK research assessment, which saw us jump 22 places in the research power rankings.  

Over two centuries, we have flourished in Coventry and Coventry University Group now also delivers access to our range of high-quality services and collaborations through bases in London, Scarborough, Belgium, Poland, Egypt, Dubai, Singapore, and Africa. We will be teaching students at a new campus in China in a joint institute with the Communication University of China in the near future. 

In April 2022, we were honoured with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the category of International Trade, the UK’s most prestigious business award. In recent years, we have won many awards and vastly improved our rankings in the league tables that matter to students – but what matters to us is delivering transformational change for our students, collaborators, and communities around the world as we continue to evolve into a global education group.  

*About the Transport Accessibility Report 

Disabled people make an average of 38 per cent fewer trips than non-disabled people. There has been no reduction in this gap over the past decade. Our analysis shows that completely closing the transport accessibility gap for disabled people in the UK would deliver benefits in the region of £72.4 billion per annum.

Please follow this link for the results of this analysis: https://www.motability.org.uk/impact-and-innovation/research/our-reports/ 


For enquires about the Evidence Centre please contact evidencecentre [at] coventry.ac.uk (evidencecentre[at]coventry[dot]ac[dot]uk); for enquires about Policy Connect’s work on accessible transport please contact Clive.Gilbert [at] policyconnect.org.uk (Clive[dot]Gilbert[at]policyconnect[dot]org[dot]uk)