The government must work harder to improve the accessibility of all public transport for disabled people, according to a parliamentary committee.
In a new report, the Transport Committee criticised various aspects of public transport, saying that some of the momentum for making advances in accessibility – which was boosted by the London 2012 Paralympics – risks being lost because further key accessibility improvements planned by the Department for Transport (DfT) are being watered-down or abandoned.
Louise Ellman, chair of the Transport Committee, said: “In the UK some 11.5 million people already live with a recognised disability and more than a fifth of them experience some difficulty when using transport networks. So it’s essential that the Department for Transport delivers an ambitious Accessibility Action Plan.”
For instance, Ellman said that the government’s decision not to require all bus drivers to have basic training in disability awareness was “unacceptable.”
Ellman added that ministers should require the phased introduction of audio-visual information systems on all buses over the next 10 years as part of the DfT’s Accessibility Action Plan.
In regards to taxis and private hire vehicles, MPs called for financial incentives to encourage investment in fully accessible vehicles by operators. The Committee also recommended the DfT works with licensing authorities and the taxi trade to develop and implement a nationwide programme of disability awareness training for taxis and private hire vehicle drivers.
The Committee also welcomed the DfT’s support for disabled travel training, but voiced concern at the lack of funding available for the set-up of such schemes, which are often self-financing following an initial investment by a local authority. The report calls for local authorities to include such schemes in future bids to the Local Sustainable Travel Fund.
In addition, the Transport Committee called for the Cabinet Office to convene a working group of ministers and officials to improve cross-government working on accessibility in order to secure the full benefits from widening disabled people’s access to employment and training, healthcare and wider participation in all parts of society.
The MPs also emphasised the urgency for closer working between the DfT, local government and the new Disability Action Alliance to promote the development of successful local accessibility schemes.
In response to the report, Lucy Hurst-Brown, chief executive of Brandon Trust, a charity that supports people with learning disabilities and autism, said: “We were pleased to have had the opportunity to speak to the committee on the topic of disability and transport in March following our own studies on the matter and glad they recognise the need for widespread improvements.
“Our own research and report shows access to good, easy to use and safe transport is vital for people with learning disabilities to be able to lead fulfilled lives and gain true inclusion in society, but a lack of adequate transport solutions is one of the main barriers in achieving this.
“We therefore welcome any piece of work that could lead to improvements and changes for the better regarding access to transport for disabled people.”