Situated Infrastructures

Empowering Accessibility

Empowering Accessibility: Understanding Everyday Infrastructures

The doors on the SBB are something we engage with on a daily basis, but we need to understand more about them. Train doors were an essential piece of infrastructure we were interested in exploring, as they provide us with safety, assist in crowd management, and provide access to another critical component of systemic infrastructure, public transit. For this reason, we decided to dive into them more and attempt to find out the technical mechanisms behind the SBB train door system.

As no information was provided online we had to conduct our own primary research. This entailed a trip to the Luzern HB and several discussions with engineers, conductors, and managers. It became apparent to us that SBB withholds most information due to security reasons. Public access to important pieces of security could result in accidents and pose a threat to other passengers.

Although we engage every day with different pieces of infrastructure and technologies, there is a lack of information transparency to understand everyday infrastructures. Hence we decided to analyze different types of everyday infrastructures, such as laptops, and compare the user-accessibility to understand how they actually work and how much the public can engage with them.

Following a workshop with the collective RYBN we also became interested in exploring computer components and their composition. In the second part of our research, we disassembled a MacBook Pro in order to understand its construction and how accessible it is. It was evident that the computer was not designed to be accessible to the general public as all components were hidden behind this “black box”. Varying types of screws were utilized within the computer and the number of tools required in order to dismantle the computer was complex. We didn't feel confident enough to continue and the information provided to help us was limited.

For the final step of our research, we disassembled an XPS 15 Dell Laptop. After removing the cover, we were able to see and recognize most components at a glance. Everything appeared to be modular and replaceable, as we continued to remove components with ease. Unlike the MacBook, a majority of the screws were the same size and all components were visible. Windows computers take a far more user-friendly approach allowing you to upgrade or replace components on your own, even allowing you to use third-party components as long as they are compatible.

To conclude we created a poster visualization of our research and findings for the +Colabor festival using a traffic system scale of accessibility of the three aforementioned pieces of infrastructure. We agree that accessibility considerations should be an integral part of every design decision, ensuring that everyone, regardless of their abilities or knowledge can fully enjoy and engage with everyday infrastructures and technologies.