Deutsche Bahn CEO Dr Richard Lutz has launched DB’s new app, “Barrierefrei”, representing a further milestone towards accessibility at DB. Attending the launch were Enak Ferlemann, Parliamentary State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, and Jürgen Dusel, German Federal Government Commissioner for Issues Affecting People with Disabilities. A representative from the German Disability Council was also in attendance, and the work of the group that supported and consulted on the initiative was commended.
Dr Richard Lutz said, “I’m delighted that the new DB Barrierefrei app has been launched, marking a major step towards mobility for all. For the past 15 years, the working group has been developing tangible improvements for people with disabilities in trains and stations. As experts in their own domain, I thank them wholeheartedly for their work.”
State Secretary Enak Ferlemann said, “It’s really impressive to see what DB has achieved to improve accessibility over the past 15 years. It would not have been possible were it not for the expert, critical involvement of the experts from the working group that supported and consulted on the process. Congratulations to all involved!”
Jürgen Dusel added, “I very much welcome Deutsche Bahn’s initiative and the work of the group that supported and consulted on the programme. Achieving accessibility is a demanding but vital task, particularly since people are affected by many different types of disability. The concept of “Design for All” is a key requirement for the future.”
Representing the working group that supported and consulted on the process, its representative, Karl-Hermann Haack, explained that “Despite some initial scepticism, the open and partnership-based dialogue that has taken place over the past 15 years has resulted in a relationship based on mutual trust.”
With the entry into force of the German federal ordinance on barrier-free information technology in 2003, DB’s contact centre for customer queries on disability issues began its work, collaborating closely with people with disabilities in the process. A working group to support the programme was also established.
Milestones towards accessibility
For the first time, using DB’s Barrierefrei app, passengers with cognitive, physical or sensory disabilities can access information throughout the entire chain of travel in a form suitable for them. Information is provided both visually and by means of audio. Users can check whether lifts and escalators are in working order, and push notifications are used to inform customers of important timetable changes. The app is also useful for passengers with prams, buggies or heavy luggage. For details, visit bahn.de/app-barrierefrei
Accessibility is also a key consideration when purchasing and modernising trains and buses. The ICE 4 is setting a new benchmark in Europe in this regard. Regional trains and buses are also designed accordingly.
Numerous improvements can also be seen in train stations. Out of around 5,400 stations in total, 77% can already be accessed without using steps. Around 100 stations are added to this number each year. 4,900 of the 9,200 station platforms have already been equipped with a tactile guidance system consisting of indicators displayed on the ground.
65 DB travel centres are now also fully accessible. Important elements of accessibility include tactile wayfinding, an announcement system adapted for people with disabilities, seat modules and high-adjustable controls for wheelchair users or people of small stature, including audio induction loops.
Larger buttons and font and high-contrast menu control at ticket machines are employed to ensure user-friendly operation.
The most important information is summarised according to target group to give people with disabilities an overview of specialist services offered by DB. Information for blind and visually-impaired people can be found at bahn.de/blind-sehbehindert, while information for the deaf and hard of hearing is provided at bahn.de/hoerbehindert. People with reduced mobility can access relevant information at bahn.de/gehbehindert, and information in simple language is available at bahn.de/leichte-sprache.