MACS response to the consultation on an Equality Evidence Strategy 2023 to 2025


The Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS) is pleased to contribute to the consultation. MACS is a statutory advisor to Scottish Ministers on all aspects of travel and mobility for disabled people (please see Appendix for more details). We want to see better information collected, made available and used about all aspects of mobility and access for disabled people.

Access and mobility are, of course, fundamental to disabled people’s participation in every aspect of personal, social and community life and work, education, healthcare, etcetera. We would like to see researchers in all fields of equality and human rights contribute to an increased understanding of this area to improve our knowledge of the barriers disabled people face, and to succeed in having these barriers removed. It will also be essential in order to track future improvements aimed at reducing inequalities and delivering a just transition to more sustainable travel behaviours.

In recent years, we have been promoting the idea of ‘closing the mobility gap’ between disabled and non-disabled people, and have engaged in extensive discussions with Transport Scotland’s Analytical Services team on how to monitor this.  In particular, we want to ensure that the evaluation arrangements for the National Transport Strategy (2) are effective in helping us to understand if that strategy’s first strategic objective - ‘reducing inequalities’ - is being met. Similarly, we are continuing discussion with our Sponsor Team about how best to monitor progress in delivering the Accessible Travel Framework including through the annual delivery plan milestones.

We have therefore recently written to Transport Scotland’s Analytical Services to summarise our research asks; some of these are contained in this consultation response. We hope that this will be of interest to, and attract the support of, wider Scottish Government equality networks.

‘Disability and Transport’

This report on the travel patterns of disabled people was produced for the first time in 2021: View Disability and Transport Findings from the Scottish Household Survey. We want to see this produced annually, as a discrete, separate publication. This will make the data available and easily accessible to the public and a wide range of stakeholders including policy makers, transport operators and researchers. This first edition was a useful start in establishing baseline data about how disabled people travel for the first time, but it needs to be built on.

We see merit in the information contained in this being included (mainstreamed) in wider transport and travel reporting (such as Transport and Travel in Scotland, TaTiS). We hope that Disability and Transport will become a key longitudinal resource for understanding to what extent we are succeeding in ‘closing the mobility gap’, with improvements in meeting data gaps made incrementally over the years.

We would like to see more research to better understand the disparities in travel between disabled and non-disabled people revealed in ‘Disability and Transport’. We would also like to understand the extent to which these differences can - or can’t - be attributed to disability, compared to other factors such as poverty, social class and age, which are also known to be associated with certain travel patterns. Additionally, we are aware that in rural and island areas of Scotland travel behaviours may be influenced by an absence of, or fragile, public transport provision.

There are some specific gaps in information on ‘modal travel’ in the first Disability and Transport report, which we would like to see filled. In particular, this includes adding information on ‘walking and wheeling’ - one of the main ways that disabled (and non-disabled) people travel.  Too often travel data focuses solely on ‘main mode’ used. This means that for example, the fact that almost everyone walks (or wheels) to and from the bus stop, or connects between buses and other modes, is not included in data recording ‘bus trips’.

This grossly undercounts the amount of ‘walking and wheeling’ which goes on, as this mode forms a part of so many journeys (even by car, where there is often a walking stage to or from a car park).  This is especially important for disabled people because there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that these short ‘first and last mile’ journeys can present the biggest obstacles to disabled people’s mobility. (For an example, view Disability Equality Scotland views on 20 minute neighbourhood survey report)

While the first edition of Disability and Transport provides useful starting point for looking at some key modes of travel, notably by car, bus, train and plane, we also wish to see more data on other modes of travel (as well as walking and wheeling, as noted above). These include:

  • taxi (and private hire)
  • ferry
  • cycling
  • demand responsive transport (including community transport)
  • ambulance/social work transport

The total volume of trips for some of these modes will be relatively small but many of these modes are known to be especially important for disabled people. This may therefore require booster samples or use of methodologies other than the Scottish Household Survey and Travel Diaries.

We would like to see all data differentiated as much as possible for rural/island and urban classifications, as is common in much transport reporting. This is essential to gain insights into geographic differences across Scotland.

Scottish Household Survey

Disability and Transport (and many other transport publications) are based on data from the Scottish Household Survey (SHS). We believe that there is a fundamental problem with the disability classifications used in the SHS. The 20 options under Question HF2A (quoted below) are a mixture of medical and functional classifications which make little logical sense. For example, a person who has arthritis may in all likelihood have problems related to arms or hands. In which case, should they be classified (1) (arthritis) or (12) (Problems or disabilities related to arms or hands)?

“Which of the conditions listed on this card best describes the physical or mental health condition that (name) has?

  1. Arthritis
  2. A speech impairment
  3. Chest or breathing problems (asthma/bronchitis)
  4. Diabetes
  5. Difficulty hearing
  6. Difficulty seeing (even when wearing spectacles/contact lenses)
  7. Dyslexia
  8. Epilepsy
  9. Heart, blood pressure or circulation problems
  10. Learning or behavioural problems (e.g. autism, Down’s Syndrome)
  11. Mental health problems
  12. Problems or disabilities related to arms or hands
  13. Problems or disabilities related to legs or feet
  14. Problems or disabilities related to back or neck
  15. Severe disfigurement, skin condition or allergies
  16. Severe stomach, liver, kidney or digestive problem
  17. Some other progressive disability or illness
  18. Difficulty understanding spoken and/or written word
  19. Some other health problem or disability
  20. Refused”

These classifications also imply the adoption of the ‘medical model of disability’, which is at odds with ‘the social model of disability’ which we, the wider disability movement and the Scottish Government all advocate. For MACS purposes, it is useful to know if people have mobility problems and if these related, for example, to being able to manage a step, or needing to sit down, etcetera. But it is not necessary to know the medical cause of disability (such as heart disease or arthritis). Similarly, it is useful for our purposes to know if a person has particular needs in relation to communications, information or assistance required. And differentiating between seen and unseen disability helps to understand the differences of travel barriers faced by these groups. We would also like to see data collected on the particular experience of wheelchair users.

We therefore would like to see this Evidence Strategy review stimulate a wider discussion of how best to define and record ‘disability’ in the SHS, in line with a modern social model approach. This should involve a wide range of stakeholders including Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs), as well as the research community.

Person-centred research

While Disability and Transport focuses mainly on travel data by different modes, it is also essential that we understand how the whole 'journey chain’ works. This requires a ‘person-centred’ approach, taking account of planning a journey, interchanges between modes, the role of carers and staff, costs, mental health issues, invisible disabilities such as management of pain (influenced by length/time of journey), etcetera. Insights on these topics can better help us understand the barriers to travel and also help to monitor if these barriers are over time being reduced as we would wish to see.

There is also a need for more evidence to be gathered on how well various initiatives and schemes work for disabled people. A key such scheme for MACS is Motability, which provides cars and mobility equipment to over 600,000 people in the UK (and in Scotland, under the ‘Accessible Vehicles and Equipment Scheme’ over 60,000 people). The scheme is based on extensive tax exemptions, but there is virtually no external evaluation of the scheme. Similarly we should have the means to regularly evaluate the uptake and effectiveness of other important schemes (such as concessionary travel or Passenger Assist).

We therefore wish to see more insightful qualitative research to provide evidence about disabled people’s perceptions, attitudes and feelings about all aspects of transport and mobility. This is necessary to complement the quantitative data in Disability and Transport and other statistical products. MACS would be keen to work with researchers to help define priorities and comment on possible methodologies. We hope that some creative and insightful ways can be found to understand these barriers and how to overcome them.

We also see merit in ‘People’s Panel’ type forums which enable policy makers to test, probe and explore disabled people’s responses to potential initiatives. We understand that Transport Scotland is considering establishing such a panel to test views about strategic transport proposals. One area which might be particularly suitable for this is with regard to the challenging target of reducing car travel by 20% by 2030, which will be a major issue for disabled people over the next few years.

However, we also recognise that there are a number of other ‘panels’ which are already in place, some of which have remits that would overlap with (or complement?) a potential Transport Scotland panel. These include the Research Institute for Disabled Customers, SCOPE and Transport Focus.

While we undoubtedly need to know more about the specific barriers which prevent or discourage disabled people from travelling as they would wish, we must also bear in mind that there is already a massive amount of qualitative information about these barriers in the public domain. This is documented through conferences, consultations, webinars, reports etcetera. One particularly valuable resource is the collection of weekly ‘user polls’ carried out by Disability Equality Scotland for over three years on a wide range of subjects (often including mobility issues). There really needs to be a way of recording and collating this information; when people are repeatedly asked the same questions without anything actually changing, then the result is likely to be ‘consultation fatigue’, engagement apathy and cynicism. Disclosure fatigue’ is already a common issue with repetitive and overly burdensome benefits assessments and employment adjustment processes. We would like to see more streamlined data collection processes to alleviate the undue burden on disabled people to improve their inclusion.

With the extension of disability definitions to include mental health aspects, there are also some new dimensions which need to be given careful thought: especially in relation to stress, anxiety and confidence. These aspects have clearly been rising since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidenced for example by ONS studies. We believe that these matters may add ‘layers’ of difficulty to other mobility problems - for example, way finding in a railway station or negotiating steps or even pavements may not only be physically difficult, but in addition can cause, or exacerbate, anxiety.


MACS believes that a robust research programme is essential if we are to understand if we are ‘Reducing Inequalities’ in mobility, and also to produce evidence which can inform best practice and make a practical contribution to improving services. MACS will shortly establish a small subgroup to continue discussing what information and insights we would like to see collected in the longer term and would be happy to contribute further to discussion which can help achieve this.

Appendix: About the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland

The Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS) is a statutory advisory non-departmental public body. Within the founding legislation, Scottish Ministers have defined the overall aim for MACS as follows: 

“MACS will consider such matters relating to the needs of disabled persons in connection with transport as the Committee think appropriate and give advice to Scottish Ministers”.

MACS Strategic Remit is: 

To give Scottish Ministers advice on aspects of policy, legislation and practice affecting the travel needs of disabled people.

  • To take account of the broad views and lived experiences of disabled people when giving advice.
  • To encourage awareness amongst disabled people in Scotland of developments, which affects their mobility, choices and opportunities.
  • To work closely with SG and ensure our work programme complements.
  • The work being undertaken by the Inclusive Mobility and Transport Committee (IMTAC), the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), the Scottish Human Rights Commission, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and other organisations, voluntary and statutory.
  • To promote the travel needs of disabled people with designers including transport planners and operators so that these are fully taken into account in the development of vehicles and infrastructure and delivery of services.
  • To monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of our work against the above aims and objectives in improving travel opportunities for disabled people in Scotland.