Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from the Salford Disability Forum (DAT 56)

1. Introduction

What is Salford Disability Forum?

1.1 Salford Disability Forum is a city-wide forum which is a major force in the lives of hundreds of disabled people across our city. The Forum not only works on behalf of disabled people: it is disabled people.

1.2 Members of Salford Disability Forum are from all communities including people with learning difficulties, sensory or physical conditions and people who are disabled due to chronic, long-term conditions.

What do they do?

1.3 The Forum meets on a monthly basis in venues across the city to discuss issues relating to disability.

1.4 The mission of Salford Disability Forum is to ensure that disabled people in Salford are able to play a full and active part in the life of their communities, able to take control of their lives and have an influence on others.

The aims of Salford Disability Forum

1.5 To enable people with disabilities to gain independence.

1.6 To increase the knowledge of disabled people about the services and choices available.

1.7 To reduce the isolation of people with disabilities

1.8. To enable people with disabilities to have a voice locally, regionally and nationally.

1.9 To raise awareness about the barriers to inclusion that disabled people face, especially with regard to employment, education, health, housing, and transport.

Salford DeafBlind Network

1.10 The group was established in 2006 as a result of a project delivered by the Community Pride Unit from Church Action on Poverty and the Salford Sensory Team.

1.11 A diagnosis of dual sensory loss can be a very traumatic experience and often leads to loneliness, depression and social isolation.

1.12 The DeafBlind Network, from its inception, encouraged greater participation in the local community by people affected by dual sensory loss.

1.13 In developing the Network, a number of barriers to participation for people with dual sensory loss were identified, including:

loss of confidence to go out without support and meet other people;

an inability to travel independently and use public transport due to dual sensory loss;

additional mobility and health issues; and

a desire not to place an added burden on friends and family.

Salford DeafBlind School of Participation

1.14 In 2011, a group of DeafBlind people from the Network took part in a School of Participation facilitated by Church Action on Poverty’s Community Pride Unit.

1.15 Schools of Participation are an approach to community empowerment rooted in popular education and the asset based, learner driven, action focused practice of Paulo Freire, who said: “Transformation is only valid if it is carried out with the people and not for them.”

1.16 This submission to the Select Committee is born out of the School of Participation, rooted in the lived experiences of the participants and a reflection of the participants own desire to campaign for better access to public transport as the inability to travel safely and securely on public transport is the most significant barrier to DeafBlind people enjoying an independent life.

2. Factual Information

The effectiveness of legislation relating to transport for disabled people. Is it working?

2.1 In 2011, the European Parliament issued a press releasei in which it was announced that bus passengers’ rights would enter into force in 2013. It also made reference to a package of twelve fundamental rights:

“A package of twelve fundamental rights was approved which will apply to all regular services regardless of distance. These rights include information before and during a journey and the needs of people with disabilities or reduced mobility. Non-discriminatory access to transport is guaranteed.”

2.2 The regulations described in the press release include a number of clauses regarding access to public transport for disabled people. The regulations state:

“Bus and coach passenger services should benefit citizens in general. Consequently disabled persons...should have opportunities for using bus and coach services that are comparable to those of other citizens.”ii

Facilities and vehicles

What the law says

2.3 The European regulations say, with regard to facilities and vehicles:

“in deciding on the design of new terminals and as part of major refurbishments, terminal managing bodies should endeavour to take into account the needs of disabled persons ... Similarly ... carriers should, where possible, take those needs into account when deciding on the equipment of new and newly refurbished vehicles.”iii

2.4 In UK legislation, the Equality Act 2010 details specifically the regulations governing buses, and the powers of the Secretary of State to regulate specifically on the design and fittings of vehicles to ensure that they meet the access needs of people with disabilities:

“The Secretary of State may make regulations for securing that it is possible for disabled persons: (a) to get on and off regulated public service vehicles in safety and without unreasonable difficulty ... and; (b) to travel in such vehicles in reasonable safety and comfort. The regulations may, in particular, make provision as to the construction, use and maintenance of regulated public service vehicles, including provision as to: the fitting of equipment to vehicles.”iv

What actually happens

2.5 The signs and numbers on buses are not visible and are not appropriate for people with a visual impairment:

“You cannot read the signs and numbers on the buses until it is too late: destinations or numbers on the side would help.”

2.6 The lack of audio-visual displays on board buses means that DeafBlind, visually impaired and hard-of-hearing passengers are dependent upon staff and other passengers to know at which point to alight from the bus. Members of the DeafBlind Network have personal experience of this information not being given:

“The first time I went out on my own using a long cane, it was a horrible day; it was pouring down with rain. I got on the bus and asked to be put off at the Stocks Hotel. The bus was going and going and I thought it should be sooner than this. I asked the lady next to me if this was my stop, and she said, ‘Oh no, you have gone way, way past that’. So I asked the driver to stop, got off and it was on the main A6 which is a very busy road and because it was raining so heavy, it was dark and I was completely disoriented. I had options: ring my son to come and rescue me; try to cross the road, the A6, which was definitely out, in order to get the bus back to where I should have been; so I decided to walk. It was a really frightening experience, because it was dark, it was raining and it was my first day out, and because I had gone past the stop and I had to get off in an area I did not know. It meant that I had a two-mile walk back, in an area I did not know”. Joan

2.7 In 2005, the majority of buses were not accessible for people with disabilities, and did not comply with the minimum standards of accessibility outlined in law, and the “business case” exemptions for adaptations suggest that the situation will not have significantly improved:

“To date, only 29% of buses meet the accessibility regulations applying to new vehicles under the Disability Discrimination Act.”v

Suggestions and responses

2.8 The Salford DeafBlind Network wrote to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Norman Baker MP, identifying the barriers to access to public transport for people with a dual sensory impairment. In particular the group identified the lack of audio-visual announcements on buses as a significant problem.

“If we had signs on the bus, visual and audio, we can listen for our stop coming up and we can get off the bus where we wanted to and not be taken past the stop ... It would make travelling so much easier if they had this on the buses. Visual and audio for those who are deaf or blind or for other people who might be concentrating on their kiddies or whatever. It doesn’t just apply to us, it applies to everybody.” Dennis

2.9 In addition, the group pointed out that such signs are available on other forms of public transport, for example, Metrolink, Greater Manchester’s Light Rail network.

“Can I just say the tram service in Greater Manchester is so much better than the buses for the simple reason that they have an audio and visual sign saying where the next stop is so you know straight away where to get off, whereas you don’t have this facility on buses.” Dennis

2.10 The group has also discovered that in other parts of the country the “Talking Buses” are in service, and that in London, the buses all have this standard of equipment.

2.11 The response from the Under Secretary of State was disappointing, as he stated quite clearly that he would not regulate to ensure that buses are accessible for DeafBlind, visually impaired and hard of hearing passengers, saying:

“We do not intend to legislate to make audio-visual systems on buses mandatory. The business case for operators cannot be demonstrated.”

2.12 The Under-Secretary of State goes on to say that a voluntary scheme is being encouraged:

“We do understand the social benefits of having such systems on buses for all bus users as a matter of fact, and I have recently written to bus operators to encourage them to work in partnership with their local authorities, to see if the uptake of these systems can be increased on a voluntary basis.”

The Under-Secretary also makes reference to the EU Regulation on bus and coach passenger rights cited above (and quoted by the DeafBlind Network in their letter to the Under Secretary), although it is unclear from the correspondence what reasonable hope passengers can have of this being effectively enforced.

Staff Training

What the law says

2.13 The EU regulations on the rights of bus and coach passengers also make reference to the training of staff:

“In order to respond to the needs of disabled persons... staff should be adequately trained ... Organisations representative of disabled persons ... should be consulted or involved in preparing the content of the disability related training.”vi

2.14 The supporting Legislative Acts and Instruments provide more detailed information regarding training requirements:

“Training of staff that deal directly with the travelling public includes: awareness of and appropriate responses to passengers with physical, sensory (hearing and visual), hidden or learning disabilities, including how to distinguish between the different abilities of persons whose mobility, orientation or communication may be reduced; barriers faced by disabled persons ... including attitudinal, environmental/physical and organisational barriers; ... interpersonal skills and methods of communication with deaf people and people with hearing impairments, people with visual impairments.”vii

What actually happens

2.15 Members of the DeafBlind Network are in agreement that there is a need for bus drivers to be trained about the needs of DeafBlind passengers as current levels of awareness are very low. Some of the areas in which drivers and bus company staff need training, evidenced by the experiences of DeafBlind people on public transport in the city, include:

“Sometimes drivers don’t stop even if you are standing on the kerb or holding up your orange wallet. ... Drivers pull away before we have time to sit down. ... Drivers don’t always stop when you ask them to or when you ring the bell but don’t get out of your seat.” DeafBlind Network

Suggestions and responses

2.16 Members of the DeafBlind Network are very clear that driver training is essential in order to increase accessibility to public transport for people with dual sensory impairment:

“Drivers should be trained to drop you off at a ‘safe bus stop’ where it is possible to cross the road such as near traffic lights. ... Bus drivers of all companies need training about the needs of DeafBlind passengers”. DeafBlind Network

2.17 Members of the group were also keen to ensure that people with disabilities are involved in the design and delivery of that training. There is a perception among many disabled people that most organisations do not understand any disability access issues beyond wheelchair use and that there is a limited understanding of disabilities like dual sensory impairment, which might not be immediately obvious to the casual observer:

“Disabled people feel that transport staff are not sufficiently trained about disabled people’s needs. Bus drivers are regarded as particularly insensitive. The problem seems to be a basic lack of awareness of the problems disabled passengers face. ... Disabled people would like to see transport companies taking a lead in training their staff in disability equality and awareness.”viii

2.18 Unfortunately there is no compulsion within legislation regarding the content of driver training. The Under Secretary of State for Transport said, however:

“On the subject of disability awareness training for drivers, EU Directive 2003/59 states that there should be no compulsory aspect to driver training and operators should be allowed to decide what kind of training is appropriate. However, we have supported the development of a disability awareness module which is available for use by the bus industry as part of the periodic training required by drivers to maintain their Certificate of Professional Competence and it is estimated by industry that two thirds of drivers are now trained in disability awareness.”

The Provision of Information

What the law says

2.19 With regard to the provision of information for passengers, the European Parliament regulations state:

“Rights of bus and coach passengers should include the receipt of information regarding the service before and during the journey.”ix

2.20 The importance of accessibility and information, and the involvement of people with disabilities in designing that information, is further emphasised in the Legislative Acts and Instruments associated with these regulations:

“In cooperation with organisations representative of disabled persons ... carriers and terminal managing bodies shall ... establish, or have in place, non-discriminatory access conditions for the transport of disabled persons.”x

What actually happens

2.21 The difficulty of reading bus numbers on the front of the bus, leaves DeafBlind people dependent upon the goodwill of fellow travellers, or bus drivers, to ensure that they are catching the right bus.

“I got on the bus, and I thought it said 33, and off I went. Then I began to get into territory which I didn’t recognise at all, which I don’t recognise at the best at times! And I asked the driver and he said you are on a whatever, and put me off at this roundabout. Well, one traffic island looks so much like another. I don’t know where I was. I looked around and there was nobody on the street, and it was just me and this island: Desert Island Discs without the music and without the lovely Kirsty. So what could I do? I found my way to the bus stop, and I finally got home, but the silly thing was, I suffer from angina and if I get any stress it starts everything off again, so that put me off travelling alone on the buses. I have only been on a bus once since then. But before, I used to go on the buses a great deal.” Theo

2.22 The need for assistance by travellers with disabilities is recognised in European Parliament Legislative Acts and Instruments, and the need for appropriate training for staff is highlighted:

“Training of staff directly assisting disabled persons ... includes: ... understanding of the need for reliable and professional assistance. Also awareness of the potential of certain disabled passengers to experience feelings of vulnerability during travel because of their dependence on the assistance provided.”xi

2.23 The provision of assistance for people with disabilities on public transport is also present in UK legislation, via an amendment to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, which also reinforces the importance of training for staff:

“If a wheelchair user or any other disabled person requests assistance a driver or conductor must provide it...To assist in this process it is important that all staff receive appropriate disability awareness training.”xii

Suggestions and responses

2.24 The provision of training for drivers and other staff regarding the range of disabilities and the needs associated with those disabilities, to ensure that appropriate assistance is available for DeafBlind passengers.

2.25 The involvement of people with dual sensory impairment in the design and delivery of the training provided for drivers and other staff.

2.26 The requirement for all buses to have clear signage showing the number and destination.

3. Recommendations for Action

3.1 The provision of audio-visual announcements on buses to ensure that all passengers receive the appropriate information in a format which is accessible.

3.2 A review and overhaul of the disability awareness training provided for drivers and other passenger-facing staff, and the introduction of an industry-wide code of practice to ensure that the needs of DeafBlind and other disabled passengers are met.

3.3 The design and delivery of driver and other staff training on disability awareness should involve individuals and relevant organisations, representing a wide range of disability, in the design and delivery of that training.

3.4 That passengers on buses, no matter where they live in the country, should reasonably be able to expect a minimum standard of accessibility, rather than the current situation, which sees passengers in London receiving a higher standard accessibility than many other parts of the country, and a significant “postcode lottery” in the level of independence possible for people with a dual sensory impairment who are dependent upon public transport.

“Deafblind people have different levels of hearing and sight loss but the majority can hear with the assistance of a hearing aid. The group do feel that they are sometimes the forgotten disability because their disability in a lot of cases is not immediately obvious. The group would like to say that they are not asking for the earth, they are just asking for what they are entitled to, normal human rights and that is the accessibility to public transport.”

January 2013

References

i 20110215IPR13670

ii Regulation (EU) No 181/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 2011 concerning the rights of passengers in bus and coach transport and amending Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 Paragraph 7

iii Ibid Paragraphs 9–10

iv Equality Act 2010 Chapter 15 Part 12 Chapter 2 Section 174 Paragraphs 1-2

v Making the Connections: Final Report on Transport and Social Exclusion ODPM 2003

vi Ibid Paragraphs 12–13

vii 2008/0237 (COD) C7-0015/2011 Legislative Acts and Other Instruments re Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the rights of passengers in bus and coach transport and amending Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 Annex II (a)

viii Attitudes of Disabled People to Public Transport Disabled Person’s Transport Advisory Committee 2003

ix Regulation (EU) No 181/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 2011 concerning the rights of passengers in bus and coach transport and amending Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 Paragraph 14

x 2008/0237 (COD) C7-0015/2011 Legislative Acts and Other Instruments re Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the rights of passengers in bus and coach transport and amending Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 Article 11 Paragraph 1

xi 2008/0237 (COD) C7-0015/2011 Legislative Acts and Other Instruments re Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the rights of passengers in bus and coach transport and amending Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 Annex II (b)

xii Disability Discrimination Act 1995 The Public Service Vehicles (Conduct of Drivers, Inspectors, Conductors and Passengers((Amendment) Regulations Guidance)

Prepared 13th September 2013