Part 2: Why We Need an Accessible Travel Framework

Part 2: Why We Need an Accessible Travel Framework

The rights of disabled people

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Convention) sets a common international standard of rights and treatment of disabled people across the world and requires governments to take action to remove barriers and give disabled people real freedom, dignity and equality. It was ratified by the United Kingdom in 2009.[2]

The Convention makes it clear that disabled people have the same right as every other citizen to equal access to employment and healthcare and participation in learning, social, leisure and cultural activities in order to live life to the full.

In order for disabled people to do all of these things, they usually need to be able to travel in line with our vision. This means, for example, that disabled people should always be able to:

  • obtain and use accessible information to plan journeys;
  • get from where they live to reach public transport services unobstructed;
  • access those services with whatever support and help are necessary;
  • enjoy the journey in comfort and safety; and
  • complete the journey satisfactorily.

The experiences of disabled people

So the ability to travel is a great enabler, but barriers to accessible travel can leave disabled people unable or unwilling to travel. Disabled people have told us of experience of good and bad journeys as shown at Figures 1 and 2.

Figure 1

Some examples[3] of the problems disabled people can face and their impact on disabled people:

  • "Refused entry with a guide dog because pet dog already on the bus."
  • "Deafblind user on ferry to Arran – ferry is re-routed to Greenock due to bad weather conditions. The announcement is made on public tannoy system. Traveller is unaware and arrives in unknown destination."
  • "I will not use trains because I had such a bad and upsetting experience. A group of other passengers verbally abused and harassed me and my friend who has a learning disability too. We tried to get help from the train staff but we couldn't and there was no CCTV. Passenger safety needs to be improved and staff need to be aware to make us feel safe. Transport providers need to do more to support work by disability organisations to challenge hate crime and bullying as transport is a hot spot for this."
  • "I have been refused access to taxis on the grounds of 'allergy' to dogs. I have had a piece of paper waved in front of me to prove medical exemption but had no way of knowing whether it was a real exemption certificate as I have no sight."
  • "People who have had a bad experience are no longer using that transport."

Figure 2

Some examples[4] of good practice and suggestions for change we heard from disabled people:

  • "Early intervention and engagement enables the prevention of ineffective and inefficient services."
  • "Found it helpful to be provided with printed information when enquiry made at travel point." (Deaf person.)
  • "Disabled people are the ones who best know what is required. Many providers are at fault only because of their ignorance of the difficulties involved. We have had occasions where when we have pointed out the problems the response often is 'Oh we never thought of that'. Too often there have been many complaints about drivers especially not fulfilling their duties because it is inconvenient for the drivers. Perhaps there should be some way of monitoring the conduct of the drivers."
  • "Standardise training – so important!!!! and regularly refreshed accessible formats of surveys aren't accessible you are missing a whole group of people who likely have valid feedback."

What the statistics tell us

There is evidence that disabled people do not travel as often or as far as the rest of the population, as the information at Figure 3 shows.

This can have a limiting effect both on the disabled person and on society in general. A recent estimate said UK households in which at least one member is disabled hold a combined total annual disposable income of over £200 billion[5]. Improving transport for disabled people potentially opens up this spend to areas such as retail and tourism.

Figure 3

Disabled people and transport statistics

  • The last census showed that 1,040,000 people in Scotland had a long-term health problem or disability, out of a population of 5,295,400.
  • In 2013-14, 83.1% of disabled people surveyed said they hadn't used a rail service in the last month, compared to 70.7% of the Scottish population not using a rail service in the last month.[6]
  • In 2013-14, 54.5% of disabled people surveyed said they hadn't used bus services in the last month, compared to 56.6% of the Scottish population not using such services in the last month.[7]
  • In 2014, people in Scotland with a limiting health condition are less likely to have walked or cycled in the previous week than non-disabled people. For example, people with a limiting health condition were 19.7% less likely to have walked for transport at any time in the previous week.[8]
  • Disabled people take less time on their commute than non-disabled people, suggesting they do not travel as far for work as non-disabled people.[9]
  • In 2014, approximately one in 10 disabled people in the UK had difficulties getting to a rail, bus or coach station or stop and a similar proportion had difficulties getting on or off these forms of transport. Nine per cent had difficulties crossing roads or using pavements.[10]
  • In 2014 an estimated 48% of all adults visited the outdoors one or more times per week for leisure or recreation compared to only 36% of adults with a long-term health condition or illness.[11]
  • After a lack of job opportunities, difficulty with transport was the most commonly cited barrier to work among UK adults with impairments.[12]
  • A study looking at the impact of rail accessibility improvements found that 33% of wheelchair users, 19% of hearing impaired passengers and 15% of mobility impaired passengers reported increased trip making following the improvements.[13]

Advantage for all

The benefits of improving accessibility for disabled people often extend to people who are non-disabled, in terms of time savings and service quality improvements that everyone values as Figure 4 shows.

Figure 4

Disabled people and transport – advantages for all

  • A set of universal design measures to improve accessibility were introduced on public transport and a study found the measures have a positive effect on patronage. Even on routes with limited traffic, the study concluded universal design is profitable from a social economic perspective when calculations are based on actual passenger numbers and costs.[14]
  • The costs and benefits were evaluated of an accessibility enhancement: changing infrastructure standards to reduce the gap between the train and platform at underground stations and widening the doors of trains. Not only did the proposed project improve accessibility, the proposed project can reduce the boarding/alighting time, which leads to an operational cost reduction and a faster journey time for all passengers. The authors concluded this makes the project economically viable in the sense that the benefits exceed the costs.[15]