Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from Action Disability Kensington & Chelsea (DAT 38)

Executive Summary

(a) Current legislation, on paper, is sufficiently comprehensive. However, ADKC members consistently reported that access rights and requirements are neither fully or consistently respected nor enforced.

(b) Transport-related information is frequently inaccessible for disabled people with a range of impairments.

(c) General transport-related information such as timetables can make already hard-to-access information even less user-friendly.

(d) Fares and tariffs across transport networks and providers represent a disproportionate financial burden on disabled people.

(e) Public transport staff attitudes are the most influential factor determining the quality of transport experience currently available to disabled people.

(f) Negative attitudes often result from a lack of practical experience in providing assistance to disabled transport users and a lack of awareness of the specific access needs of disabled people.

(g) A lack of confidence in public transport staff’s capability to ensure personal security and dignity increases disabled people’s reliance on other forms of transport.

(h) Direct experience of providing assistance to large numbers of disabled transport users has resulted in more positive attitudes and practical efficiency.

(i) Significant Paralympic legacy successes were the result of increased staffing, including the presence of volunteers at peak periods and key areas and more frequent services.

Introduction

1. Action Disability Kensington & Chelsea is a user-led organisation providing information and advice services, training and peer-training and support and campaigning for disability rights. The organisation facilitates a number of user groups. One of these groups has a primarily campaigning role, which over the last six months has focused on transport issues. The comments and recommendations laid out in this document have been collected and collated in a variety of settings including monthly user group meetings, specifically organised focus groups and formal consultation events, individual telephone and drop-in enquiries and regular participation in Royal Borough and London-wide service user forums.

Response to Formal Questions

The effectiveness of legislation relating to transport for disabled people: is it working? Is it sufficiently comprehensive? How effectively is it enforced?

2. ADKC members find that current legislation, on paper, is sufficiently comprehensive. However, ADKC members consistently reported that access rights and requirements are neither fully or consistently respected nor enforced. Legislation is found “not to work for us when and where it’s needed”; that is to say that ADKC members found that frontline public transport staff and other transport users are frequently unaware of the legal responsibility to provide access and access information to disabled people. Where the principle of practical and logistic equality of access is accepted and respected, full equality of access encompassing choice of times, routes and providers, flexibility, dignity and comfort and safety during travel do not meet the equivalent minimum standards experienced by non-disabled users on equivalent journeys. Especially prevalent was unchallenged negative attitudes and behaviour ranging from mild non-compliance to hate crime-type incidents involving other transport users.

The accessibility of information: including the provision of information about routes, connections, timetables, delays and service alterations, and fares

3. Currently, transport-related information is frequently inaccessible for disabled people with a range of impairments. While ADKC members welcome recent innovations such as the bus stop-specific text codes allowing real time updates on bus location and timings along a route, significant, often basic barriers to equality of access remain. These are especially relevant to blind and partially sighted transport users. Such basic barriers include failure of the driver to announce the route number of a stopping bus, inaccurate, faulty or inoperative “talking bus” technology, buses stopping at varying and often challenging distances from a stop and a lack of access information when stops are temporarily relocated or out-of-use.

4. General transport-related information such as timetables often includes “off-peak” modifications and specifics as subscript or additional information. As Freedom pass holders most frequently travel off-peak this can make already hard-to-access information even less user-friendly.

5. We ask the committee to consider the accessibility of transport-related information in the wider societal context of cumulative disadvantage and inequities. In this context, fares and tariffs across transport networks and providers represent a disproportionate financial burden on disabled people who are more likely than socio-culturally matched non-disabled people to be in receipt of benefits and/or on low incomes and less likely to have multiple alternative personal transport strategies to choose from. Transport providers increasingly privilege web-based user information and information services such as “live” cancellation updates that require and/or assume majority availability and accessibility of internet enabled mobile devices and home broadband. Digital inequities disproportionately apply to disabled people. At the most rudimentary level of information accessibility, general signage and public announcement systems continue to fall well short of meeting the access needs of all disabled people.

The provision of assistance by public transport staff and staff awareness of the needs of people with different disabilities

6. ADKC members consistently report that public transport staff attitudes are the most influential factor determining the quality of transport experience currently available to disabled people. Even where transport-related information, infrastructure and disability-specific equipment and technology are lacking or poor, positive public transport staff attitudes can and do contribute to positive transport experiences that encourage and reinforce increased use of public transport networks and greater personal independence.

7. In contrast, ADKC members consistently report that negative public transport staff attitudes are central to overall negative experience of public transport networks and often contribute to disabled people’s unwillingness to try new or unknown providers, routes and journeys.

8. ADKC members feel that negative attitudes often result from a lack of practical experience in providing assistance to disabled transport users and a lack of awareness of the specific access needs of disabled people with a range of impairments. Lack of awareness seems especially significant in relation to disabled transport users who have a range of sensory impairments and hidden disabilities and is most often mentioned by younger adults.

9. We ask the committee to note that when and where practical assistance provided for disabled transport users has been sufficient to successfully complete a journey, negative staff attitudes and especially an apparent unwillingness or inefficiency in enforcing access rules and regulating other transport users’ behaviour has often discouraged disabled people from becoming regular public transport users. This lack of confidence in public transport staff’s capability to ensure personal security and dignity increases disabled people’s reliance on other forms of transport and increases the proportion of income required for personal transport needs and limits inclusion and active citizenship.

What can be learnt from transport provision during the Paralympics and how can we build on its successes?

10. ADKC members felt that the successes in transport provision during the Paralympics were directly related to comments made in response to the previous question [paras 6–9, this document] The volume of traffic through key interchanges at Stratford and King’s Cross meant that all staff had direct experience of providing assistance to disabled transport users, particularly wheelchair users. This direct experience has resulted in more positive attitudes and practical efficiency, for example in the provision of manual ramps and assistance provided to guide dog owners.

11. ADKC members reported that one of the most obvious successes during the Paralympics was in the use of more, larger, clearer and better positioned signage along key routes. Unfortunately this aspect of improved provision for disabled users with a range of impairments was one of the first to be lost.

12. We ask the committee to note that many of the most obvious and significant successes were the result of increased staffing, including the presence of volunteers at peak periods and key areas and more frequent services. Many of the everyday difficulties experienced by disabled public transport users are compounded by or result from un-staffed gates and the absence of platform level staff.

Recommendations

13. ADKC members would like to see more frequent, more comprehensive and more practical training in access responsibilities and requirements and disability awareness given to all public transport staff. Ideally such training should include training delivered by disabled transport users and include supervised and assessed provision of direct assistance to disabled people with a range of impairments.

14. Access and transport information should be provided in a variety of accessible formats and should be available with equivalent updating and relevance to “standard” information.

15. ADKC members would like to see an intensification of media campaigns and enforcement around disability awareness and disabled people’s right to travel safely and with dignity.

16. “Step-free” access and platform level direct assistance, and staffing levels generally should be maintained and increased across public transport networks.

17. Accessible transport and door-to-door provision must be considered at initial and all subsequent planning stages of all urban infrastructural and service delivery developments.

18. ADKC members would like to see local disabled people and representatives of disabled people’s organisations participating in every level of strategic transport planning and community consultation, including ongoing service monitoring and review.

January 2013

Prepared 13th September 2013