The National Council for the Blind of Ireland has today (Wednesday 13th December) renewed its calls for a fully accessible reliable public transport system to adequately serve the needs of the growing numbers of people with sight loss in Ireland.
Presenting a submission to the Joint Committee of the Oireachtas on Transport, Tourism and Sport, the national sight loss agency highlighted the problems created by a transport system that continues to pose significant access difficulties to people who are blind or vision impaired.
Including extracts from NCBI’s ‘Out of Sight’ report – a survey of access issues conducted with 351 people who are blind and vision impaired in late 2016, the submission referenced a suite of recommendations that NCBI is advocating on.
The recommendations include renewed calls for audible announcements at rail and bus stations and on public transport, the establishment of KPI’s for accessibility across the transport system and the need for full engagement with NCBI on transport issues to ensure the best outcomes for people who are blind or vision impaired.
In a wide ranging submission, the NCBI recommended mandatory disability training for all Irish Rail staff to ensure an organisation wide standard for customers with disabilities, the establishment of a new structure to ensure regular and formalised engagement with the NCBI and the introduction of a subsidised taxi transport system for people with sight loss.
NCBI CEO Chris White says “We are grateful to the Chair and the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport for the opportunity to present on the accessibility of public transport for people who are blind or vision impaired. There has been progress, and we welcome that, but it has been slow and hard won. The barriers that exist within our public spaces and built environments, coupled with the barriers created by inaccessible public transport, hugely limit the rights and choices of people with sight loss, leaving them unable to fully participate in society”.
Pointing out that 74% of people who are blind or vision impaired use public transport, Mr White added “Public transport takes on new significance when it is a person’s only form of getting around”.
Chris White also stressed that NCBI be consulted in relation to any major route changes or cancellations before they happen. Citing the recent example of the impact of the absence of engagement in a change to a Bus Eireann route from Cavan to the Mater hospital in Dublin, he said “the sudden cancellation of this bus route by Bus Eireann highlights a total lack of understanding among senior management within Bus Eireann of the needs of people with impaired vision”.
“We must place disability at the heart of all decisions in relation to current and public transport infrastructure. We therefore ask the Joint Committee for Transport, Tourism and Sport, to support our recommendations to ensure a fully accessible public transport system”
5.0 Summary of Recommendations
All public transport
- Public transport websites and apps must be accessible for a truly accessible service. A target of January 2019 accepted to complete this review and access enablement.
- Public Transport Review
- A Disability-proofing approach be formally adopted by the Dept of Transport and the NTA to ensure that all current and future public transport services are accessible to people who are blind or vision impaired.
- Dept. of Transport and the NTA commit to consult with NCBI in a regular, formalised and more meaningful way in the current review of public transport services.
- Fill all access officer positions and provide the necessary resources and training.
- Prioritise and resource user groups.
- A new structure for regular, formalised engagement with representative organisations such as NCBI.
- NCBI to be consulted on any major route changes or cancellations six weeks before they are implemented.
- All public transport should have audible communication technology installed and commit to the use of that equipment. NCBI are looking for 90% coverage of the entire national (public and Private Infrastructure by 2020) to operate audible announcements both within carriages / coaches and at stations / platforms.
Monitoring and Review
- All public and private transport providers to commit to ongoing disability awareness training for all staff.
- Monitoring, review and consequences for misuse or non-compliance by employees of transport companies is integrated into the implementation of new and existing accessibility features to ensure their continued success and to facilitate equal access.
- Establish and publish KPIs for accessibility across the transport system.
- Irish Rail to engage with NCBI on the issue of unstaffed stations to ensure best outcome.
- All stations must be fully accessible to persons with impaired vision, with EU standards, appropriate to station size, adhered to.
- NCBI recommends that all Irish Rail staff receive mandatory disability awareness training to ensure an organisation-wide standard for customers with disabilities. Completion of this target to be published and circulated at the various stakeholder engagement groups.
- Audible announcements that are functioning switched on and maintained to operate correctly on all trains and carriages.
- Audible announcements that are functioning switched on and maintained to operate correctly on all busses.
- Prioritise the provision of audible announcements in the consideration and granting of licences to private operators.
- Fit all buses and coaches with cameras to enable monitoring of alignment with kerb edges and reduce the risk of persons with impaired vision sustaining injury as they embark or disembark the bus.
- Audible announcements that are functioning switched on and maintained to operate correctly on all trams.
- Audible announcement of the destination of the tram as it enters and stops at the platform.
- Introduce a subsidised taxi transport scheme for people with sight loss, as per the London Taxicard system. NCBI would be happy to work with the Department on researching this.