A new parliamentary inquiry is a “huge opportunity” for disabled people to raise their concerns with MPs about the accessibility of public transport, say campaigners.
The Commons transport committee, chaired by the Labour MP Louise Ellman, this week called for evidence on how effective current transport laws are for disabled people.
The user-led campaigning organisation Transport for All (TfA), along with some of its members, had suggested an inquiry into accessible transport when the committee asked earlier this year for possible topics to investigate.
Lianna Etkind, TfA’s campaigns and outreach co-ordinator, said the inquiry was “brilliant” news and a “huge opportunity” for disabled people.
Despite disability discrimination legislation, she and her colleagues receive calls every day from disabled people who have been refused entrance onto a bus by its driver, or have booked assistance for a train journey only to arrive at their destination and find no member of staff there to help them off.
Etkind said: “It is so important to make sure that this legislation doesn’t just exist on the statute books but is enforced.
“Some MPs and companies are suggesting the regulation is red tape and an impediment to progress.
“That is extremely worrying because it is the regulation that protects disabled people’s ability to get out and about on equal terms with everybody else, and that ultimately enables us to get to work and participate and be visible.”
She added: “We are certainly going to be encouraging our members to give evidence and to highlight where the legislation is not working and examples of times where they have been discriminated against or let down by transport providers.”
The committee will ask whether the laws on accessible transport are working, whether they should be strengthened, and whether they are being enforced effectively.
It will also examine the accessibility of information on timetables, fares, routes and delays, and the provision of assistance by transport staff, and will ask what can be learned from the way public transport was provided during the London 2012 Paralympics.
Etkind said there had been “a lot of incredibly good stuff” during the games, with TfA members reporting “helpful, friendly, non-patronising, available, visible staff”, which “made a huge amount of difference”.
She added: “What the games showed us was that lots and lots of disabled and older people will get out there and travel on public transport when they can be confident that staff will be available and it will not be a gamble.”
But she also warned that many disabled people would want to raise concerns to the inquiry about the impact of the government’s cuts of 20 per cent to spending on disability living allowance (DLA), which will see an estimated 500,000 people lose eligibility for those benefits.
This issue has not been included in the inquiry’s terms of reference, but Etkind encouraged disabled people to raise it in their evidence.
She pointed to the 100,000 Motability customers expected to have to hand back the keys to their vehicles when they lose their DLA, and added: “I think transport providers need to prepare for a huge influx of disabled people, and many of them are not ready for that.”
Written evidence for the inquiry on the Effectiveness of Legislation Relating to Transport for Disabled People should be submitted to the committee by 14 January 2013.
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com