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Australian Government needs to get on board with accessible transport

01 June 2017

Vision Australia has responded to an Inquiry by the Australian Government into public transport, ramping up pressure on them to make meaningful changes that improve ‘Whole of Journey’ public transport experiences across the nation.

For people who are blind or have low vision, accessible public transport is essential to meaningful participation in modern Australian life, whether it is for employment, education, sport or just to meet up with friends or do the shopping.

Whole of journey encompasses all forms of public transport including buses, trains, trams, taxis, walking and includes signage, paths and pedestrian infrastructure, as well as customer service, information, audible announcements, wayfinding.

When it comes to past inaction, the Vision Australia’s response didn’t hold back, stating “Every review of the Transport Standards has attracted submissions that have highlighted the lack of an appropriate enforcement mechanism as a major limitation of their effectiveness, yet nothing has so far been done to rectify this. The end result is that little positive change has occurred for people who are blind or have low vision in the area of public transport in the 15 years since the Transport Standards were introduced.”

The Australian Government in consultation with the National Accessible Public Transport Advisory Committee, and the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development produced a consultation draft of a new guide to improve public transport accessibility across the nation: ‘The Whole Journey: Thinking Beyond Compliance to Create Accessible Transport Journeys.’

The Guide responds to the second review of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002. The Review recommended that accessibility guidelines be developed, as a planning tool, for a whole of journey approach to transport. The Guide sets out to encourage relevant stakeholders, such as town planners, designers and builders and operators to focus on people’s accessibility needs, rather than be constrained by the physical boundaries of services and infrastructure.

Vision Australia’s submission includes a comprehensive set of recommendations and feedback from clients.

Key issues and responses to the Proposed Guide include:

  • It is not enforceable, lacks incentive for compliance and does not impose sanctions for compliance failures. Accessibility barriers will not be removed in the absence of power to compel action.
  • It pays little attention to the accessibility issues unique to regional and rural areas, where public transport provision is poor and irregular. Clients have told us that in some of these communities, only one bus service is available per day, and these buses often lack accessible features.
  • It fails to spell out how effective linkages between the pedestrian environment and public transport operations will be achieved.
  • It relies on the assumption that if information is available via apps, all accessibility problems will be solved. Our recent research shows that smart phone technology is not widely used by our older clients. The absence of national and international standards governing the accessibility of apps presents an additional barrier to information access for our community.
  • The NDIS envisages that people with a disability will achieve their goals and to their full potential. This requires that they be able to travel safely, confidently and with dignity – in other words, in the same way that the rest of the community takes for granted. Clear and enforceable guidelines are vital to the success of the NDIS.

We expect a response from the Department later this year. In the meantime, Vision Australia will continue to make sure the wider community is aware of these matters.

The full Vision Australia submission is available here 

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