Chronicle

Observations from the big city jungle

The fact that daily newspapers are replaced by mobile phones in public transport is certainly no news. That everyone shut out the outside world with an inner theme song in their ears, no one's surprised. The fact that we all suffer from mobile zombies are equally annoying for everyone, even those who are mobile zombies themselves. They stop in stairs for an Instagram, they suddenly brakes on sidewalks or outside the doors of the subway for a Twitter message, bicycles while chatting or hands-free talking in the car. The apps in the mobile become verb phrases, an expression of something we do. We are instagramming, we google and we are snapchatting.

Raouf Sormunen

Title: Accessibility expert with a special focus on assistive technology

We are becoming more and more isolated from human contact despite all social networks. We also lose in consideration of others.

Mobile zombies become rounding marks, which slow down the tempo, brake and become standstill. It's like in the movie Awakenings where the children slow down and eventually become catatonic. Or, it turns out to be reversed, they act like steam rollers and plow into crowds because they are stressing as usual, but now without an eye on the outside world. One can dare to say that they become persons with disabilities. A situation-specific impairment. They are both blind and deaf to the environment, they have a motor disability similar to catatony when they slow down and last but not least, without actually worrying that they plow down their fellow travelers. The focus is on the screen. The reduction of functionality passes off as soon as they leave the phone, lift their eyes or take off the headphones.

In Sweden, there are approximately 1 - 1.5 million people who have some type of disability, according to numbers from the WHO. It is about 15% of the country's population.

We also know that over 800,000 people travel with Stockholm's public transport each day and that very many have a smartphone. Almost one million travelers every day. Then you can start to understand the extent of problems this brings.

Although as little as a tenth of this million moves like mobile zombies, we have a problem. A problem big as a medium-sized Swedish city. 80,000 people with disabilities who travel in public transport. We will need a solution. A solution that works for everyone or a solution that works for mobile zombies.

The latter may mean that we introduce mobile files on all transport routes within and between commuter train stations, stairs and escalators. We create mobile areas on the subway platforms so that we who actually have a disability avoid stumble on the mobile zombies because we know where they are. We propose a ban on playing music without headphones, so that we can easily orient ourselves. The public transport companies can provide push notifications to warn mobile users that ordinary passengers need to pass through doors, escalators and on platforms to get to work, school and childcare. You can surely imagine the cost of all this adaptation for zombies. Perhaps a cheaper solution is a total mobile phone ban, but who will ensure that it is complied with?

The solution for all does not really mean any costs. It only means a common agreement. A solution that makes public transport work more smoothly. That the social interplay between people works and that we at the same time show some consideration to others. And we also get eighty thousand fewer persons with disabilites clotting and stopping traffic. Perhaps we start talking to a stranger and learn something new.

The solution is that we simply make a common decision that when we are on the move in public transport, we leave our phones in our bags or pockets.