Accessibility for the disabled has been a hot topic in the UK for years, and it still is to this day.
With conversation currently circling around whether or not the UK is truly as accessible as it claims to be, transport experts all over the country are now being faced with the mounting pressure to improve services and make them more accessible to everyone. While there are wheelchair access vehicles for sale commercially, public transport is still an important part of travel, especially through the big cities, so is the UK truly doing enough to make public transport more accessible? Read on to find out!
So, How Are We Improving?
Over the past few years, new government regulation and guidance regarding bus travel for disabled users improved the entire process significantly. There were a new set of rules that bus service providers are legally obligated to follow, including allowing all guide and assistance dogs onto the busses, drivers can no longer ask a disabled passenger to leave the vehicle simply because they suffer from a disability, wheelchairs (of a certain size) must be allowed on the bus, drivers must always be familiar with the lift and ramp systems on their vehicle, and they must safely deploy all ramps for the wheelchair user. These new rules had 64% of busses accessible by 2013, and since January 2017, all busses are required by law to have a wheelchair bay, ramp and priority seating.
Stagecoach, a bus company here in the UK, have led the way in the world of accessibility. Not only do they focus on the likes of wheelchair users and those with reduced mobility, but they have also extended their accessibility to blind or partially sighted persons. Through the launch of a new charter in July of 2015, a charter produced alongside the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Stagecoach have implemented a range of rules to improve the use of busses for partially sighted individuals. These rules include:
- Drivers must stop for any waiting passengers at any designated stop on the route, and they much assist all blind and partially-sighted passengers by informing them of the service number and their destination.
- Drivers must also provide assistance with payments, and where there is no audio announcement for the stops, they must inform them when they reach their required stop.
Passengers hoping to use any TFL services in London can now gain advice and insight on their route, or an alternate route that is far more accessible where necessary. Those that want to take advantage of this can even request a mentor for the first few journeys to help them. Accessible platforms are also available at around one quarter of London’s Underground stations, over half of over-ground stations, and most piers.
But There Are Downfalls…
Toilets On Trains
Those living in the UK will remember the recent news story regarding a disabled woman being unable to access a disabled bathroom when she needed it, and the embarrassment she was forced to endure when she could no longer control her bladder. Travel around the UK still has far to go when it comes to providing enough fully accessible toilets on each and every one of their services.
Not Every Station
As we mentioned previously, not every train station has an accessible platform, and this just isn’t good enough. While alternate routes are often available, this can include having to travel further, and at a higher cost just to reach a destination.
Are Deaf People Being Forgotten?
For those who are hard of hearing or deaf, public transport isn’t always practical. For example, most announcements regarding delays, changes to services, arrival times, or the next station are usually verbal, so these can often be missed. Those who aren’t able to hear verbal announcements often rely heavily on visual displays, and there just isn’t there just isn’t enough of these dotted around stations. Hearing loops can be available at some stations, but are notorious for either not working, or for being a different frequency to what is able to be heard in some cases.
All in all, the UK is working to become better, but it’s a process that is arguably taking a little too long to reach its full potential. In fact, at the current pace of improvement, it could be decades before the entire country is as accessible as it needs to be.