&Kommen is a redesign of the Frankfurt public transit system that facilitates accessibility to refugees. "Kommen" meaning "come" and "ankommen" meaning "arrive" in German, &Kommen is a joining of two languages - the English ampersand and the German expression - to signify the unification of multiple dialects.
Frankfurt, Germany is the country’s fifth largest city and is home to 750,000 residents and six millions visitors each year. Frankfurt’s transportation system, Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV), is one of Germany's largest public transit networks, providing train, tram, and bus routes all around the city.
In 2015, Germany had taken in the highest rate of refugees it has ever seen in history, with over 890,000 asylum seekers in search of safety. The majority of these refugees came from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Turkey. Germany was suddenly tasked with integrating an influx of many new and vulnerable citizens into a completely unfamiliar culture.
Research addressing mobility of refugees in the city of Frankfurt has just begun to surface. Benefits of using public transportation for immigrants include increased access to resources, increased access to job opportunities, widened social circles, and overall enhanced integration into the new country and culture. In a recent study completed earlier this year, researcher Isabella Geis broke down the many issues immigrants face with mobility during the integration process in Frankfurt. Ninety-eight percent of refugees in the study reported never using a car as a driver, and only 50% of refugees in the study reported using public transportation on a weekly basis. Because of this, many of these refugees are refined to living out their daily activities within only a one to two mile radius, all by foot.
The strongest noted cause for this lack of use of transportation is simply that refugees are often unaware of their options. They experience information overload when first settling into their new countries. The pamphlet for how to use the RMV system quickly gets lost amongst the shuffle of hundreds handed out upon arrival. There currently is little effort to consolidate the proper knowledge distribution of mobility resources between government groups, non-profit organizations, and grass-roots efforts.
&Kommen is a dual mobile app and kiosk system that addresses this knowledge distribution issue with a design solution. It works to aid in the navigation around Frankfurt by providing ease and reassurance to not just refugees, but also to visitors and even long-time residents of Frankfurt. The system aims to utilize the untapped potential that smartphones have on refugee integration2 and couple it with visual and audible cues in the outside world in order to create a comprehensive system that reaffirms navigation around the city. The International Rescue Committee UK (IRC) is funding this project in hopes of laying the framework for how design made for refugees can be beneficial for all.