Research Support for the 2015 Transport Accessibility Summit
3 Priorities from the Discussion Groups
3.1 In the morning session of the Transport Accessibility Summit, the 13 groups were asked to discuss the themes of either 'Information and Assistance' or 'Training and Customer Service'. The purpose of the themes was to generate discussion and to agree on two priority issues for Transport Scotland to focus on for potential inclusion in the Scottish Government response to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled People.
3.2 Groups had 30 minutes to discuss the issues and to try and prioritise their top two. It should be noted that this was a challenging task given the number of issues to be discussed. Feedback revealed that some groups found the prioritising element did not allow for much discussion of the issues.
3.3 Two sessions ran concurrently in the morning and afternoon, so that all delegates were able to discuss two of the four themes by the end of the Summit.
3.4 There was a facilitator at each table, tasked with keeping the discussion on track and a scribe to capture the discussion, including verbatim comments. The findings in this report have been compiled based on the scribe notes and additional comments collected at the Summit from participants who wrote on post-it notes.
3.5 Below we outline what the top priorities were for each of the four themes. This has been calculated based on the number of groups who indicated the issue was a priority. Other issues identified as priorities by fewer than three groups can be found at Appendix 4. It is worth noting that all 50 issues discussed at the Summit will be dealt with by Transport Scotland as part of the work to be taken forward following the summit, not just those identified as priorities.
Information and Assistance
3.6 There were several issues identified as priorities by the groups discussing the theme of Information and Assistance. A key finding was to provide information to disabled passengers in accessible formats when things change – such as breakdowns or changes to the journey. Also mentioned was that schemes such as Passenger Assist can be hugely beneficial – but needed more promotion to be used to their full potential. Others mentioned that they also found the term 'Passenger Assist' difficult to understand.
3.7 The issue mentioned most by participants was issue number 3, relating to informing disabled passengers of any changes or breakdowns on their journey. This was mentioned by four different groups of participants as a top priority.
Make sure disabled people know about any breakdowns or changes to travel. Other accessible transport or help will be given to finish the journey.
3.8 Issue three was identified as a priority as information about the journey is fundamental to disabled people if they are to travel independently. Suggestions included keeping people informed, particularly of any diversions or changes to services, allowing them to plan onward journeys – but that this has to happen in real time.
"Because if the information is not there; the journey can be disastrous."
3.9 Two other issues were identified as priorities by most groups. These were issues number 1 and 9, relating to having better travel information, and making passengers more aware of Passenger Assist. Three groups of participants noted these two issues as priorities.
Make travel information better. For example, timetables for accessible buses and using audio images.
3.10 During the group discussions, disabled people made suggestions as to how transport providers could make 'travel information better'. This included suggestions such as providing easy read and audio information, and to produce smart-phone apps and You Tube videos about using different forms of transport.
3.11 Also suggested was the inclusion of disabled people's organisations in the production of these materials and timetables.
"Disability groups need to work better together. People with learning disabilities involved in production of timetables, etc."
3.12 Some group discussion highlighted the need to consider different disabilities and impairments and to be inclusive of all of these when providing information on transport. For example, deaf and hearing impaired people cannot hear announcements over tannoy systems, alerting of any changes to journeys. Suggestions to improve this included ensuring all changes are also announced visually, provide personal assistance where possible (which is more identifiable) and for the provision of a card which denotes deaf and blind would help, as this is only currently one or the other.
There is a central booking system to help people travel by rail called Passenger Assist. Make sure more people know about it.
3.13 The group discussion identified that Passenger Assist is not a well-known service and that more should be done by transport providers to promote it.
"Two people in the group were unaware of the (Passenger Assist) scheme. Has the potential to be extended to other transport providers."
"Not a lot of people know about it – needs promotion. – the spontaneity of travel is important."
3.14 Solutions to improving Passenger Assist, could include disabled people providing transport providers with more information about their needs through regular passenger surveys. This would allow transport companies more insight into what the needs of their customers are, and what services are required to meet these needs.
"Passenger Assist could be used to help people with support needs to move towards independent travel."
Examples of personal experience relating to Information and Assistance
"Experience of subway train broken down. Better to know in advance. No announcement in station. Had to wait for next train."
"On the trams, there are symbols on the ground and the bay is marked so person is at the correct point for boarding."
"I've often been left on buses because of a lack of information."
"Refused entry with a guide dog because pet dog already on the bus."
"Very scary as left in Motherwell instead of east end of Glasgow." (Visually impaired participant)
"Found it helpful to be provided with printed information when enquiry made at travel point." (Deaf participant).
South East Scotland Transport Partnership (SEStran)
SEStran has developed the Thistle Card to make using public transport easier for older people or those with disabilities or illness.
The card, which is supported by a wide variety of voluntary organisations in South East Scotland and by most bus operators, is credit-card sized and comes with a supply of peel-off stickers, which advise the driver of your disability and the help you need in an easy-to-read format. Other Regional Transport Partnerships and bus companies have introduced similar cards but use tends to be quite localised and there was a call for a national, consistent and widely publicised card for Scotland.
Training and Customer Service
3.15 There were several key issues identified by the groups as priorities under the theme of 'Training and Customer Service'. The overarching priority was to include disabled people and their organisations in decisions about transport and to involve them in training and capacity building across the sector. Training, especially equality training and human rights training was thought to be most important. Some groups called for a joined up national approach to training to prevent duplication and ensure the same standards across Scotland.
3.16 The issue mentioned most by participants was issue number 3, relating to ensuring all transport staff have disability equality training (not just disability awareness). This was mentioned by all six groups as a top priority.
Make sure all transport staff have disability equality training.
3.17 Discussion groups identified that equality training should include practical aspects, such as how to board a wheelchair onto a vehicle and cover a variety of disabilities, both physical and non-visible conditions.
3.18 It was also very important for equality training to be user-led and designed by disabled people, so that the content is relevant. Also noted, was the importance to keep the training up to date, and have transport providers 'top-up' their training over time so they are always up to date.
"Keeping training relevant and up to date."
Swap With Me Training
"Swap with me" training is for people with visual impairments. It involves the bus driver 'swapping places' with a person with visual impairments. Drivers wear a blindfold and are to access the bus, and interact with the blind passenger who is acting the part of the driver.
This is to raise awareness of the problems that blind and visually impaired people face when travelling on buses. It also allows the blind or visually impaired passengers the chance to understand the challenges the driver is facing, leading to empathy from both parties.
First Bus select bus drivers to take part in this training who have had complaints received against them, but also those with high commendations. The hope is that the drivers will learn from one another.
3.19 One other issue was identified as a key priority by five of the six groups. This was issue 1, relating to including disabled people and Disabled People's Organisations in decisions about transport.
Include disabled people and Disabled People's Organisations (DPOs) in decisions about transport.
3.20 Group discussion revealed that it is important to prioritise the inclusion of Disabled People's Organisations in decisions about transport. It was suggested that discussion is required between Transport Providers and Disabled People's Organisations to identify what type of decision making disabled people want to be involved in. Also noted was the need to ensure that funding is available to allow Disabled People's Organisations to be involved. It was reported that Disabled People's Organisations had been involved sporadically in the past, but then funding was cut, ceasing their involvement. Participants noted the need to ensure that Disabled People's Organisations involvement is sustainable.
"Need to be involved in the decision making process because this influences everything else."
Examples of personal experience relating to Training and Customer Service
"Wheelchair space with buggies in buses – there is a need to revise public awareness to rights of disabled people."
"Consistent good service is important. We have had very bad experiences with stagecoach in Elgin but have had great service and help on Gold Bus. Good experiences and good journeys should be a universal experience."
"The Passenger Assistance scheme is good at getting you on and off the train but there are also on the train needs."
"Security on the train is a major problem – no CCTV."
"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."
3.21 Within the theme of Deliverability, there were a number of issues relating to taxis, and accessible taxis. Some groups elected to group these issues together, and make them priorities. Other issues related to the provision of accessible toilet facilities and challenging hate crime on public transport.
3.22 Three groups agreed to merge the issues of taxis together, and so their top priorities included issues numbers 9,10,11,12,13 and 14.
Make sure 1 in 5 taxis that are running at one time are accessible to wheelchair users. Use taxi licensing to manage this.
An accessible taxi should cater for people with different access needs.
Taxis should have a certificate to say they cannot take passengers in wheelchairs or assistance dogs.
Local authorities should collect information about accessible taxis in their area. This will help them to see where they need to improve things.
Try out an accessible taxi share system in areas where no taxi firms have accessible taxis.
Funders like the Scottish Government could give out grants to taxi firms to get more accessible taxis.
3.23 Taxis were a key priority for disabled people; including their availability, frequency and the rates for this use.
"Accessible taxis usually stop after 10pm - more needs to be done to ensure availability round the clock."
"Some wheelchair taxis charge more than others. Can't this be challenged or regulated against?"
3.24 The other issue that was most commonly indicated as a priority for group was issue 6, which relates to tackling hate crime on public transport – mentioned by three groups.
Challenge hate crime on public transport. British Transport Police will help with this.
3.25 Several participants attending the Summit reported experiencing or witnessing hate crime. For some, this had resulted in them no longer feeling safe, or confident to use public transport.
"Everyone has seen it or experienced it."
"People who have had a bad experience are no longer using that transport."
Examples of personal experience of Deliverability
"West Lothian looked at possible accessible taxis and users chose what was used."
"Accessible taxis must be side-door. Back door taxis are not a pleasant experience – you feel isolated."
"There are some voluntary car services subsidised so free to disabled users, but funding is coming to an end."
Community Transport Association
Community Transport is provided by the voluntary sector. The service is a bus, which operates like a taxi service. It is flexible and tailored to the needs of the passenger, but it is not an immediate service. Passengers wishing to use community transport must book their journey 2-3 days in advance.
Drivers are trained to help people with disabilities, such as ensuring that wheelchairs are restrained properly and to help blind and visually impaired people get on and off the bus safely. They also receive training in manual handling and working with guide dogs. The training is compulsory.
3.26 There were several issues identified as priorities by the groups discussing the theme of Connectivity.
3.27 The issue mentioned most by participants was issue number 1, relating to establishing a working group to include public transport bodies, Regional Transport Partnerships and Disabled People's Organisations. This was mentioned by five of the six groups of participants as a top priority.
Set up a working group which will include public transport bodies, Regional Transport Partnerships, and Disabled People Organisations (DPOs).
3.28 Disabled participants at the Summit were clear that they wanted to be included in decisions about transport, and that a working group, which would include Local Authority representatives, Regional Transport Partnerships, public transport providers and Disabled People's Organisations was a priority to establish.
"New services are designed and developed without due consultation – disabled people are often an afterthought."
"Early intervention and engagement enables the prevention of ineffective and inefficient services."
3.29 Disabled people believed that a working group would allow them to shape and influence local issues and help transport providers and Regional Transport Partnerships "think beyond" the physical barriers to effective communication. This would include being mindful of all impairments and consider all types of needs.
"Without no.1 all the other issues will not happen/be addressed. Should be rights based but pragmatic. Nothing about us without us."
Make each type of transport more accessible to disabled people. It would be good if the accessibility was above the minimum standard. It should be done as quickly as possible.
Make the journey to and from stations much better. This includes train stations, bus stations and ferry terminals.
Make sure paths are clear and accessible for all
3.30 Overall, disabled participants indicated a priority should be around making the journey to and from stations much better, as well as improving general accessibility to meet minimum standards. Suggestions included physical access improvements to meet the basic needs of accessible toilets/changing places, more dropped kerbs, and ensuring paths were clear and accessible.
"If we can't get safely to transport; all the discussion is irrelevant."
New Scotrail Franchise
As of April 2015, Abellio will take over the Scotrail franchise. They will conform to all legal disability requirements, such as all new trains between Glasgow and Edinburgh will have two wheelchair places per unit. They will also over time introduce a smartcard for use on the bus, tram, ferries and train.
There are still some stations that are not fully accessible, such as Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverly but Abellio plan to invest in stations and services such as an 'Access for All' scheme.
Abellio will also consult through an equality group to ensure that all their trains are refurbished and meet standards by 2020. This also means compliance ticket machines and blue badge parking at all stations.
The staff will receive disability equality training and the time of notice for using the Passenger Assist service will be reduced from four hours, to one hour. They will also endeavour to provide alternatives where rail travel is not possible.
Examples of personal experience relating to Connectivity
"There are problems when cars are parked on the pavement and you have to walk on the road."
"At a T junction, I couldn't get passed a van" This visually impaired participant was stuck for 25 minutes until the driver returned."
"In Gourock – the links with the ferries has vanished."
"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."
"Helpful assistance at Waverly; timetabled to buses too."
"Transport for Edinburgh trams and buses, will direct you to the nearest bus or tram stop."
Accessible Tourism, Visit Scotland
Visit Scotland has launched an online training programme that allows the tourist industry to learn about the issues facing disabled travellers.
Working with Capability Scotland, Visit Scotland undertook a survey, asking disabled people what the main barriers were for them travelling. As well as mentioning accessible transport, respondents said their main barrier to going on holiday was the attitude of people when they get there.
Visit Scotland have identified that Accessible Tourism is a lucrative market, bringing in around £1.5billion a year. This online training helps those in the tourism industry be better equipped to receive disabled travellers.
Priority issues - summarised
3.31 The Summit was successful in getting participants to think about and debate the issues of importance to them. Despite the large number of issues for prioritising, the participants have identified the issues they would like Transport Scotland to focus on first. The list below shows the issues in order of priority, as determined by the group discussions; so the issues appearing first on the list were identified as important issues by the most participants.
- Make sure all transport staff have disability equality training
- Include disabled people and Disabled People's Organisations in decisions about transport.
- Set up a working group which will include public transport bodies, Regional Transport Partnerships, and Disabled People Organisations
- Make sure disabled people know about any breakdowns or changes to travel. Other accessible transport or help will be given to finish the journey.
- Make travel information better. For example, timetables for accessible buses and using audio images.
- There is a central booking system to help people travel by rail called Passenger Assist. Make sure more people know about it.
- Challenge hate crime on public transport. British Transport Police will help with this.
- Make sure 1 in 5 taxis that are running at one time are accessible to wheelchair users. Use taxi licensing to manage this.
- An accessible taxi should cater for people with different access needs.
- Taxis should have a certificate to say they cannot take passengers in wheelchairs or assistance dogs.
- Local authorities should collect information about accessible taxis in their area. This will help them to see where they need to improve things.
- Try out an accessible taxi share system in areas where no taxi firms have accessible taxis
- Funders like the Scottish Government could give out grants to taxi firms to get more accessible taxis
3.32 In addition to the Summit taking place in Edinburgh on the 24 March, six regional events also took place in Aberdeen, Borders, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Glasgow and Inverness. These were organised by the Scottish Disability Equality Forum (SDEF). These took a similar format to the Summit, in that small groups discussed their priority issues. 3.33 Encouragingly, the regional events prioritised many of the same issues as came out of the Summit; namely including Disabled People's Organisations in decisions about transport, having better and more accessible travel information and ensuring transport providers receive equality training and disability awareness training. Some new priorities were also identified regionally that were not mentioned as priorities at the Summit, such as enforcing blue badge parking spaces and considering the dangers of shared space between vehicles and people on foot.
3.34 The Scottish Disability Equality Forum (SDEF) ran a survey online which sought views on the 50 issues as identified through the consultation process. This was also available in easy-read format. The survey was publicised through the Scottish Disability Equality Forum (SDEF) website and other Disabled People's Organisations. Analysis of this survey will be reported separately by the Scottish Disability Equality Forum (SDEF). A copy is available as Appendix 3.
Feedback from the Summit
3.35 At the end of the Summit, participants were asked to complete a feedback form, detailing their views on the day. In total, 51 participants gave survey feedback. Overall the feedback was positive although there was some criticism about the challenge of fully discussing so many topics and prioritising issues within the tight time constraints which was difficult especially for those participants with learning difficulties. Several attendees found the issues discussed too wide ranging and discussions fast moving. Some comments also provided valuable learning points for future engagement.
3.36 The morning session was 'very much' enjoyed by 55% of participants, while a further 37% said they 'quite enjoyed' the morning discussions. In the afternoon, 52% said they 'very much enjoyed' the discussions, compared to 44% who said they 'quite' enjoyed them.
3.37 The talks by transport providers were 'very much' enjoyed by 39% of participants, and a further 47% said that they 'quite' enjoyed it. Four percent said that they did not enjoy these talks 'at all'. In comparison, 57% said that they 'very much' enjoyed the talks by disabled people, and a further 39% 'quite enjoyed them."
3.38 Two-thirds of participants (66%) indicated that they found the talk by the Minister 'very interesting' with a further 29% stating the Minister was 'quite interesting'.
3.39 The venue was thought to be accessible with 59% indicating it was 'very much' accessible and a further 37% saying 'quite accessible'. One participant stated that the venue was 'not at all accessible' for their needs.
3.40 The Summit was praised for having a welcoming atmosphere, with 70% stating it was 'very' and a further 28% stating 'quite' welcoming.
3.41 Overall, 63% said that they 'very much' enjoyed the event and a further 31% said that they 'quite' enjoyed it.
"Atmosphere very warm and inviting."
"Very well organised event. It was worthwhile and provides a sense of optimism about accessible transport for the coming years."
"The breadth of the topics discussed was impressive and the range of organisations extensive. I hope that this is the beginning of the increased improvement of disability groups in transport provision."
"As an organisation supporting people with hearing disabilities I found the morning and afternoon sessions very fast moving. The sessions never gave enough time to process information and give full feedback."
Disabled People's Organisation
"The process of prioritising 2 issues out of 10 or more was far too challenging for people with learning disabilities. It felt like useful discussion was being sacrificed for the sake of decision-making. Most of the people at my table hadn't had the time to think about the issues before they came."