UK rail operator Northern Trains has installed information panels using symbols from the Makaton language programme to communicate information about walking routes, attractions and nature reserves at stations on its network in Cumbria, England. 

The Beyond the Home project is designed to encourage Makaton users with disabilities to explore the region by making information more accessible for them in collaboration with local non-profits Community Rail Cumbria, West House, Carlisle Day Services, and Allerdale & Copeland Day Opportunities. 

Craig Harrop, regional director for Northern, said: “We believe that train travel should be easy for everyone – but it is important that we continue to provide that support once customers step off the train. 

“By collaborating on projects like ‘Beyond the Home’, we’re helping to increase active and accessible travel along the Cumbrian Coast Line.” 

The panels installed at Corkickle, Dalston, Harrington, Seascale, St Bees, and Wigton stations have also been supported by Cumberland Council and The Makaton Charity, the organisation responsible for supporting and promoting the communication system. 

Developed in the 1970s by speech therapist Margaret Walker while working at the Botleys Park Hospital institution, the system is now used by over 100,000 adults and children either as their main method of communication or as a way to support speech. 

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Specifically designed for those with disabilities that impair their ability to communicate with traditional speech or sign languages, the system combines symbols, sign language, and speech to communicate information. 

The project is not the first by Northern, which is run by an operator of last resort owned by the Department for Transport, to focus on improving the accessibility of the UK rail network. 

The company has also previously invested in a range of technologies aimed at aiding passengers with disabilities and, last year, provided funding from its £250k accessibility innovation fund to six projects focussing on the issue.